Anna-Marie asked some fantastic questions, and I’m excited to share the interview with you all. We actually had to cut some material because we talked too much. But here is a little of the extra Q&A:
I’ve heard you say that one of your favorite writing tips is not to develop writing rituals. How has this proven good advice for you? I know I would use rituals as a crutch (“I only write at night!” “I need to have coffee while I write!”) so telling myself that rituals don’t get the work done means that I can potentially sneak in writing time anywhere/anytime. Not that I always do, but at least it’s one less excuse. ;)
Do you have any writing rituals that have crept in anyway? A favorite time of day to draft? A favorite drink or snack while revising? As much as I love coffee and tea, my favorite writing beverage is lots and lots of water. Woohoo hydration! I also tend to like drafting at night, but that might be because I do the day job thing so most of my writing time is in the evening. My biggest ritual is probably having carefully crafted playlists for each project. I can write without them, but I love having a book soundtrack playing in the background for inspiration.
Today I’m interviewed as part of the Writer Odyssey Wednesday series at Chasing the Crazies. Amy and I talk about querying agents, the inspiration for The Chance You Won’t Return, getting through the rough times, and my favorite piece of writerly advice. Thanks so much to Amy for including me in this fabulous series!
From this interview, author Ian McEwan recounts the first time a book truly affected him:
Do you remember the first book that made you cry?
It was “The Gauntlet,” by Ronald Welch. I was 10 years old and in hospital, so I had time to read this wonderful historical novel for children in a day. Its hero, Peter, is transported in a dreamlike state back 600 years to a late medieval Welsh castle. Many adventures and battles and much falconry ensue. When at last Peter returns to the present, the castle is the awesome ruin it was in the opening pages, and all the scenes and the dear friends he has made have vanished. “Their bones must have crumbled into dust in the quiet churchyard of Llanferon.” It was a new idea to me then, time obliterating loved ones and turning them to dust — and I was stricken for a while. But no other novel on the children’s book trolley would do. The next day I read “The Gauntlet” again.
I love this memory–the excitement of the story, the pain of realizing that time must pass, the resulting emotional connection with the book. You can’t give up the first book that rocks your sense of the world.
“Like all authors, I’m asked if characters are biographical, if I put people I know into my fiction. You can see from my process that that would be impossible for me. I begin by seeing a narrative, so I can’t put people I know in it—they simply wouldn’t behave properly, they wouldn’t be cooperative and do what I asked of them. So I invent the people I need, and that’s a lot more fun anyway. I can continually refine the characters, their histories, and their damage, until they are exactly the right people I need.”
I think this is one of the best responses to the “Who’s this character based on?” question ever. I hate when people assume that fiction comes entirely out of your life experiences. I tend to find the particular characters who are experiencing this particular story. Sometimes that matches up with things I’ve experienced or heard about in real life, but a lot of the time it comes from learning more about that character and that story.
Do you tend to invent your characters, use people you’ve met in real life, or a combination?
“A Wrinkle in Time” saved me because it so captured the grief and sense of isolation I felt as a child. I was 8 years old when it came out, in third grade, and I believed in it — in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience. This place was never a good match for me, but the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation as great books have done ever since. I must have read it a dozen times.
Such a fantastic description of how a book can profoundly affect your life. I especially like that Lamott didn’t find a book that exactly reflected her experiences–it was the underlying emotion that struck her.