Saturday, January 31, 2004

For all fiction lovers and writers--I picked up Conversations with American Women Writers by Sarah Anne Johnson (University Press of New England) today and am intrigued by the interviews, lots of them, including conversations with Ann Patchett, Gish Jen, Jill McCorkle, Sue Miller, and Amy Bloom, to name a few. I settled in with Ann Patchett and was astounded to discover that when she conceives of a novel idea, she spends months and months thinking and fantasizing about it, getting everything all set in her head. Only then does she sit down to write. No outlines, no plot maps, no story trees. She says the first 50 pages are difficult, but after that, "I go pretty cleanly. When I finish a chapter, I go back and polish it for a couple of days and then go on to the next one...When I type that last sentence of the book, that book is extremely close to the book that you will see in the bookstores. I do it as I go along. I can't go on to the next part until the last part is right."

And the book Patchett is working on now? "I'm writing a book about a dead, gay magician. Doesn't sound that great, does it? But seriously if Bel Canto is a book that is redeemed by art, then this is a book about somebody who is trying to redeem himself through politics. It's Brothers Karamazov meets Joe Kennedy. There's a father with three sons who's trying very hard to raise one of the sons to be a politician and striking out."


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