Reflections of a working writer and reader
Read. Read only good writing, no junk. Give up television.
john baker, April 15th, 2007. 6 comments. Filed under blogging, miscellaneous, reading, writing.
I was interviewed by BBC North Yorkshire on World Book Day and it has been transcribed for their site.
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I’ve read the interview and found it very inspiring. Thank you. 🙂
I liked the way you said you were in love with the novel form & I thought the question of what you wished you’d known when you wrote your first novel, a clever one.
I too love the older novels in their haphazard assortment as compared to the latest titles. There is so much magic still to be derived from the past and especially even when knowledge gained from old fiction, stays unfinished. I find that mystery exciting.
jb says: Thanks, Susan. Interviews are difficult. This one was off-the-cuff, but sometimes you get the questions in advance and have time to think about them. Seems to me that both methods have their drawbacks and advantages. And, anyway, of course, the following day you think something different.
Nice one, John! It’s about time we read interviews of you and not interviews of other writers you point us to – really good stuff!
I particularly love the part where you say:
It’s not inspiration. If you write professionally, you have to write every day.
I’ve still got to learn how to do that. Any ideas?
jb says: Eli, you get out of bed and go to the keyboard. You are not allowed to wash, eat, converse or dress until you’ve got something down.
Thanks for letting that “speak” (speech) -easy in with your “lighter” (non-alchoholic) fare (There was a tough tone to that interview that corresponds to the poetry on usage I must say most efficiently!).
But I am interested in your idea of leisureliness. Specifically how it relates to the epic versus the tragic? Do you see epic and tragic stories opposing each other? If so, what use can tragedy serve?
jb says: I’m not sure I entirely understand the question, Brian. (It’s been a long day.) Maybe leisureliness was the wrong word. I was trying to contrast the writing of a novel with the writing of a short-story or a poem. And I simply meant that the novel gives a writer more space to stretch, to introduce and develop threads and ideas that may well be excluded from the other fictional forms.
And, no, I don’t see epic and tragic stories as opposing each other. The old-fashioned idea of tragedy and comedy makes perfect sense to me, and has, at least up to now, served as sufficient structure to stimulate my own ideas about drama and narrative.
“If you want to write a novel and you want it to stand on its own in the world you have to find the original voice which is inside you that no-one else has.” –
When I started writing a novel, I spent a long time trying to understand what the “voice” was, and where it came from, and how it could be translated into writing.
I had almost finished the book, when I went back and started editing. I think it was only then that the voice began to emerge.
It was probably back to front, in that the voice should have been there from the beginning, but I just didn’t have the confidence, to have a voice, or the wit to truly understand how important it was.
You can learn a certain amount about technique and characterisation and the technical aspects, but the voice, as you say, has to come from within.
It’s amazing how sometimes you can write and know that the voice is coming through, while at other times you just write.
I think confidence in your voice is so important, particularly when you enter the trying-to-get published arena. I have, I believe, encountered more rejection as a writer, than in any other aspect of my life.
Excellent interview John.
Your blog is now one of the few that I still regularly read.
jb says: Thanks, Paul. Yes, I don’t think it matters when the voice comes, as long as it comes. For you, that time at least it came in editing. But it’s arrival must have had the same degree of joy as if it had arrived in chapter two or somewhere around the ten thousand word stage. All you can do is carry on writing and try to be true to yourself and hope it’ll come. It usually does, but often not before giving you a bit of a hard time on your own.
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That just cracked me up.
jb says: Hi Michelle. You can tell, but it was conducted by an interviewer who was interested in the answers.
What a fantastic interview, John!
jb says: It’s good you liked it, Lorri. Thanks for stopping by.
Read extracts from my novels
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