Another week, another Monday… I have felt quite meh all day for no particular reason other than just feeling a bit meh. This isn’t exactly conducive to writing a blog post, but let’s see what I can pull out of the bag.
This week’s question is If you could interview any author, who would it be and what would you ask?
This is actually quite a difficult question, because while there are a host of authors I would love to meet, I’d be more inclined to gush at them about how much I adore their books than to ask them any deep, thought-provoking questions. Somewhat over a year ago I attended an event at my local Waterstones here in Nottingham, which was an evening with the utterly brilliant Robin Hobb. I think there were probably about thirty to forty people there, and she spent several hours answering our questions, reading a small piece from her (then) new book and then signing whatever we put in front of her (in many cases the book Waterstones had just sold us, the clever monkeys).
I wish to God that I had any coherent memories of that night. I believe I asked her how on earth she had been able to do all the horrible stuff to Fitz that she does to him in her books, but I can’t even remember what she answered. I just remember being completely awestruck at being in the presence of the woman who created the main character I have probably been most in love with in my entire reading career. I honestly do not know what exactly it is about FitzChivalry Farseer that hits me exactly where it matters – he’s a total idiot about the love of his life, he makes disastrously stupid mistakes, he’s surly and sullen, but I adore him from the bottom of my heart. And the only other thing I remember about that evening is pretty much telling Robin Hobb exactly that while she was signing my book, and that I’m dabbling in writing books myself and that she has been a massive influence on my own writing, and her being absolutely delighted at that and telling me to keep it up and keep going.
So yeah, Robin Hobb is still very high on the list. Second is probably Scott Lynch, because I tend to go incoherent about his Gentlemen Bastards books as well.
That’s the authors sorted. What would I ask them? Ha! See above – it is unlikely that I could manage more than a ‘guuuuuhhhhhh’ if I got a private interview.
But even here, without their presence to fuzz my brain, I cannot think of what to ask them. ‘How do you write such awesome books?’ How the hell would they answer that anyway? My personal belief is that writing is a talent, like drawing. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be good at it from the moment you start doing it – hell no, the first bunch of things you churn out are unlikely to be good for anything more than kindling a fire. But if you keep at it, and hone your craft, eventually you’ll produce something worthwhile.
If you don’t have that talent, you’ll never get to that point, no matter how hard you try. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe everyone could eventually get to the point of producing something beautiful, but I personally don’t believe it. Or if that is true, then the ‘talent’ part means that the good people get to that point after fifteen to twenty years, while the ‘non-talented’ people would need fifty or sixty years.*
*Who knows? Maybe E L James will produce something worth reading if she keeps trying for another fifty years. I just shudder to think what she might produce in the fifty years leading up to that.
Do I have talent? A little, I think. I have written three books that a number of people have enjoyed very much, and some of those are people who agree that E L James is a horrendous writer, so I’m optimistic that there is some measure of worth in my output.
Do I think I have talent when I’m reading the Assassin trilogy? Dear God, no. Reading Robin Hobb’s books (as I am doing right now) is a curiously dual-emoted affair. On the one hand I thoroughly enjoy re-reading a story which I loved from the first time I read it, at a time when my last read was long enough ago that I’ve forgotten all the details of what happens. On the other hand her prose is so godsfucking beautiful that it makes me want to throw away everything I’ve ever written, because I’ll never attain that kind of mastery.
So basically, I have no questions, only admiration. I know what it takes to write good books – keep writing, pass your stuff to people you trust* for critique, and learn from your mistakes. I made huge errors in my first book which I hope I now manage to avoid, but I know I’ll only get better if I keep writing, and keep trying to improve what I write.
*The trust bit is essential, for me. Some authors post all their stuff on writing forums and get critiques from ten or more people. I couldn’t cope with that, because I’m an arrogant bitch and I’ll always think I know better than a bunch of strangers I know nothing about.** Instead I pass my stuff to my friend Hillary, whose writing I admire hugely and whose opinion I trust. Getting critique is difficult at the best of times; I couldn’t cope with getting it from someone I don’t trust and/or admire.
**This is possibly why I’ll never be a great writer.
Here’s to FitzChivalry Farseer, my first ever proper book boyfriend.
Original post can be found here.