Show 034: September 2010
NewsI’m doing a lot of events in September and October. Amongst them I’m hosting a Writers’ Roadshow at Brighouse Library on September 4th. And in October I’m hosting many events at the Ilkley Literature Festival; among the authors I’m interviewing are Barbara Trapido, Margaret Drabble and Audrey Niffenegger. At the end of the festival on 17th October, I’m working with the Elmet Trust, an organisation set up in Mytholmroyd to celebrate the life and work of Ted Hughes, where I run a performance workshop in the late afternoon and an open mic session in the evening of the same day.
I’m worried obviously about major cuts to front-line services, but also about the potential cuts in library services in West Yorkshire and around the country. Libraries have a nostalgic power for me; these were the places where I made my early forays into reading, which provided a chance for me to explore other books and literature. I think they still provide a lifeline and culture to readers, and, in terms of reading groups, to reading communities. In the huge scale of deficit, there are very little savings to be made in cutting library services, I’d have thought.
I’d like your views on the role of libraries in the 21st century, both on my Facebook page or if you email on [email protected].
The Lacuna recently won the Orange Prize. Many of you will remember KIngsolver’s last novel, of ten years ago, ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ where the novelist uncovers some of the forgotten history of he Congo. The Lacuna has a similar political theme. She writes about Mexico and America in the 1940s and 1950s. The word ‘lacuna’ means a missing piece and she writes about some of the missing pieces of American politics in the 20th Century, where she is particularly interested in the paranoia about Communism. She creates an interesting narrator Harrison Shepherd who works for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera as a boy, coming across Trotsky. It’s a huge book. My book group read it, and many of them found it too slow moving. My experience was different; I read it over three or four long train journeys, travelling with Harrison Shepherd around the country. At the end of the novel, I wondered quite what had happened to him but Barbara Kingsolver leaves us with a mystery.
I can’t remember when I first started to want to be a writer. I started writing poetry as a child, but I had always seen myself as an artist too. I’ve had a series of a part-time jobs to support myself as writer, it’s only recently I have been able to write full-time.
I’m never alone when I’m writing because I have all these characters in my head. I’ve always had a pasting table to work at and a wall behind it to stick things too. My wall is covered in a post-it notes: by the time I start my new novel that wall is covered several layers of photographs and writings. If your characters speak to you in the night you have to write it down. I write in the first person so I have to get into the character’s skin before I can start writing. My characters frequently surprise, and often appal me in what they get up to.
When I started writing I thought I was writing satire, a kind of Tom Sharpe. I had rejections, but I was learning my craft. Then when I was in desperate financial straits, I wrote a Regency Romance quickly followed by another one. I enjoyed the Regency books but I felt I still had a lot to say about contemporary life.
My books have strong themes of friendship. I often deal with issues like divorce, breast cancer, childlessness. Issues that are to do with women living today. I always think that if I don’t cry at least once when I read parts of my own book then it won’t connect to my readers. You need some dark to make a contrast with the light, otherwise it’s just froth.
After you’ve written a book you get huge edits to do, usually structural edits. Then you get copy edits and line edits; all of which can be pages long. Then you have to read the proofs. It feels like you’re dealing with the living dead ;you get rid of a book and then it keeps coming back to you.
More men then you think read romantic novels. The great thing is that my novels are coming out in Kindle; if you want to be a secret romance reader, you can read them on Kindle and nobody knows what you’re reading.
I read as much as I can fit in. I read very widely. If I buy three for two, I read two I really want and then one out of my comfort zone. My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice, but I love Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith amongst many others, though for comfort reading I always read Katie Fforde.