Without question, my favourite authors are John Irving and Henry James. I like them for much the same reason – their characters are so finely detailed that as the stories unfold you know EXACTLY why they behave the way they do. In fact, at a certain point, the characters actions need no explanation because you, the reader, understand them intimately. So you couldn’t imagine my surprise when, whilst reading Irving’s memoir, The Imaginary Girlfriend, he mentions that one of his least liked authors is Henry James (Graham Greene being the favourite)!
The list of my most favourite books is peppered with Irving. If someone asks me which Irving novel they should read first, I’m paralysed by indecision.
My book group was extremely fortunate to have a special guest along last week – Carrie Tiffany, author of the newly released Mateship With Birdsas well as Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living.
I wish I could have made notes! Carrie shared all sorts of insights into her latest book as well as her writing process. Here’s a little of what she talked about (excuse the lazy bullet points!) –
Carrie doesn’t write her stories from beginning to end. Instead, she works on sentences and scenes. When she has enough of these, she clears a space on her lounge room floor, lays out all her pages and looks for order. Interestingly, I came across a post on another blog a few days ago that explores this approach to writing (the blogger likened it to movie storyboards).
When she’s writing, Carrie says to her kids “I’m working on my sentences” (as opposed to “I’m working on my novel”). Isn’t that lovely?
And indeed she is working on her sentences. She writes and rewrites until she feels it is perfect and then moves on to the next sentence.
Sometimes your writing stalls when you need to know a fact. Like many people, I stop writing and find out what I need to know (thank goodness for the internet!). Carrie does the reverse. When she began Mateship With Birds, she spent many, many hours in the State Library reading years worth of farming journals, regional newspapers and women’s magazines from the period, all the while making note of anything that seemed interesting. Then, as she was writing, snippets of this information found their way into the story – whether that be the teat salve farmer’s were using in the 1950s or the name of the local pub. Continue reading →