Writing fiction is a form of wish fulfillment. Writing is such an immersive process that one of the byproducts is that the writer is immersed in the world he or she creates. I don’t believe there’s any way to write fiction honestly unless you are capable of and willing to transport yourself into the story to the point where the world and the characters are real to you for the time that you are writing. (I know some writers who say that the experience extends further for them.
My novel The Journey Home has multiple inspirations. The strongest of these was the romance between my mother and father that lasted more than six decades. I’ve been trying for years to come up with a story that captured the spirit of their relationship, and I’m hoping that I was able to do so in this novel. At the same time, though, I had another very strong inspiration. I wanted to write a Novel with Food. I’m fairly serious about food, and I have always been fond of fictio
Writing fiction isn’t like competing in the Olympics in terribly many ways. This is, for the most part, a good thing, as my training regimen falls a tiny bit short of Olympic standards (actually, it’s just this side of couch potato standards). One way in which they’re similar, though, is that, like many Olympic participants, writers get extra credit for degree of difficulty. I’ve always shot for a certain degree of difficulty with my novels. In When You Went Away, I tried to
The very first book I ever edited – David Brin’s Startide Rising – won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. My batting average has plummeted since. In reality, I never planned to be an editor at all. Publishing was in fact my second choice of profession. I wanted to be a teacher, but there were no teaching jobs to be had in a dreadful economy. I’d always planned to write, though, and book publishing seemed to be a good place to hang out with writers. Still, if I was going to work
Early in my publishing career, I worked with a vaunted science fiction writer, one of the true masters of the field. His books consistently sold well, but then he published a book that sold in an outsized way. He’d always written novels that stood alone, so the repeated requests from readers and his publisher to provide a sequel surprised him and, to be honest, threw him off his game. Unaccustomed to doing this sort of thing, he wrote a pallid costume drama of a follow-up, an
Many years ago, I read an article that John Irving wrote for the New York Times Book Review. In it, he defended the novelist’s use of sentimental passages if they were intrinsic to the story and not contrived purely to generate an emotional response from the reader. His argument, if I’m remembering it correctly, was that these events do in fact come up in our real lives. Therefore, a writer should be able to reflect this reality on the page. Sentimental experiences can tell u
I’ve always been suspicious of films that purported to be “based on a true story.” That seems like a huge cheat to me. You get the advantage of viewers marveling that what they’re watching really happened while getting to change absolutely anything you want. When I started writing fiction, though, I began to appreciate the notion of “basing” something on a true story a little more. One of the adages novelists always hear when starting out is “write what you know.” The notion