Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Trees into books into trees

This is a picture of Nkhata Bay in Malawi, and from today I feel a strange and lovely connection with it, as I have just heard from Eco-Libris that the first trees have been planted in the area as a result of my collaboration with them over my forthcoming novel Too Many Magpies.

It gives me a great feeling to be putting something back in return for the resources that will be used for my book - and indeed, have already been used: it's easy to forget the amount of paper we use even while we are writing books, what with the printouts made for editing and sending out to initial readers. Here's just the first, chucked draft of one of my early manuscripts:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Some letters concerning Michael Kimball and Dear Everybody

Dear Everybody Reading this Blog,

I was so moved and inspired by Michael Kimball's novel Dear Everybody that I don't want to write the regular, judicious review I planned when I was first asked to take part in the book tour for its paperback edition, but would rather use the novel's more urgent approach and write you a letter.

I must say how surprised I am in retrospect that I didn’t already know about this striking, witty, and above all moving book. In case you don’t know about it either, I should tell you that it’s composed chiefly of suicide letters by Jonathon Bender: apologies, thanks, questions and explanations addressed to more or less everyone he had ever known and other things besides like The Easter Bunny and the state of Michigan, collected and arranged after his death by his younger brother Robert who never really knew him. The letters are interspersed with other documents found among Jonathon’s papers – newspaper cuttings, a yearbook extract, a psychologist's report etc – along with extracts from their mother’s diaries and Jonathon’s ex-wife’s funeral eulogy, and records of conversations between Robert and others as Robert began to piece together his dead brother’s life. Revealed in the process, mainly between the lines and thus with great delicacy and wit, yet very movingly, is a complex and misunderstood personality, a childhood of abuse and a subsequent life of mental disturbance. Least explicit yet most heart-rending are the letters referring to incidents in Robert’s very early life, and which take the (remembered) speech patterns and unknowing psychology of the child he was then:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Here’s the reason that I pulled the stitching out of my feather pillow and then pulled all of the feathers out of it too: I thought that I was going to find a bird.
What’s heart-rending is the implicit reason for the writing of this letter, the narrative between the lines: the fact that Jonathon would have got into trouble for this action, or even, as we come to realize, would have been beaten.

And the archival form of this novel is not just the vehicle for a story but is dynamic, for it is through arranging the letters and documents that Robert comes to reverse his formerly negative view of his brother, while at the same time the contrast between Jonathon’s version of things and the doubts that Robert still has about some of it challenges the notion of the reliability of either character and indeed all narrators. And here’s the most impressive thing to me – perhaps because it’s one of my own obsessions as a writer, but then I think it should impress everyone: what Michael Kimball has done is to portray formally the fragmentation of a life (yet in a holistic and wholly satisfying way) – something which the form of a traditional novel would belie.

But what I really want to say is just: Wow.

And to tell you that I cried. And smiled. And groaned, especially at the father’s speeches in the extracts from his conversations with Robert, when I also went physically cold all over.

Dear Michael Kimball,
There are things I am wondering about you that I know you can’t answer. Like, where did you get such a brilliant idea? (And have you guessed, I am jealous?) I know you have explained at other stops on the tour how you started with just one letter, that the whole thing just grew organically around it, that you didn’t know yourself where you were going, that you never plot your novels beforehand. But how come something so brilliant emerged? Let me put it another way: what makes you so f***ing innately, intuitively talented? And would it embarrass you if I said that the fact that your photo shows you have nice kind eyes is absolutely no surprise whatever when your novel displays such powers of insight and empathy?

Dear Alma Books,
Thank you so much for publishing Dear Everybody and making our literary culture that much richer.

Dear Publishing Industry in General,
Why don’t you publish more books like this – innovative, clever, attentive to language and to subtle and serious matters of the human condition, yet utterly accessible and engrossing? I read on an earlier stop of this blog tour that Michael Kimball’s first novel was rejected something like 119 times before it was accepted, and you probably know, don’t you, that when this happens to a writer of such important books as Dear Everybody, this represents a cultural disgrace?

Dear Everybody Reading this Blog,
Do visit the other stops on this great book tour, where Michael Kimball talks about his book and his writing in general (links at the bottom of this post).
Do also visit his website, and find out about his exciting life-on-a-postcard collaborative art project.
Below you will find a video trailer for the book, which Michael Kimball, I understand, had a hand in making.
Above all, I urge you to read this book. Order it now!

The other blog tour stops (all in April) completed so far:

Mon 13th Me & My Big Mouth
Weds 15th Dogmatika
Fri 17th The View From Here
Sat 18th 3AM
Sun 19th Lizzy’s Literary Life
Mon 20th Digital Fiction
Tue 21st Planting Words

and to come:

Sat 25th Writing Neuroses
26th Sun Just William's Luck

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An advance notice

Tomorrow I'll be hosting the book tour for the paperback publication of Michael Kimball's innovative and moving novel, Dear Everybody, about which The Believer says: Kimball creates a sort of curatorial masterpiece. Do come!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Promotional hat half-on, half-off

I'm sure I'm not the only writer to have a bit of a split personality when it comes to the business of promotion, which increasingly nowadays it is necessary for writers to do for themselves. Maybe it's because I published a couple of novels in the days when there was a clause in the contract requiring the author to leave all publicity to the publisher and not to interfere (a situation which could often work out really badly for the author, actually, if the publisher wasn't totally committed to your book above all others - and which indeed could make you think you'd rather do it yourself). Maybe it's because I had a fairly lengthy career as a radio playwright, a situation in which all you need to do is sit back and write the plays while a mighty national corporation, as par for the course, gets your work out to millions. Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I was brought up not to blow my own trumpet. In any case, promoting my own work sometimes makes me squirm and paradoxically fills me with doubt about the work itself: more than anything, how can I know that it's any good, if the attention it receives isn't purely for its merit, but because I've been cheerleading it on?

Of course, the truth is that without a promotional campaign, people don't get to find out about the work in the first place, leave alone judge it, and promotional campaigns cost money and time: with a smaller publisher especially it's absolutely necessary for the author to do much of the legwork.

So when I opened The Guardian this morning and saw an article about the call for a magpie cull by the Songbird Survival Trust, I immediately thought, 'Wow, that chimes with the title of my (forthcoming) novel (Too Many Magpies)!' and then, with a simultaneous lift and a slightly sinking heart: 'Oh, so maybe I should blog about it!'

Well, here I am blogging about it. The reason for the suggested cull is that magpies prey on the nests of smaller songbirds whose existence is threatened. The author, Chris Packham, who is strongly against the whole notion, puts it all down to a traditional prejudice against the magpie as a sinister bird, and claims that in areas where there are more magpies, there are typically more smaller species too, creating a balance. It's an interesting argument - and a counterintuitive one, I'd say: you should hear the screams of the blackbirds round here all day long as they try to head the magpies away from their nests - and the emptied-out eggshells on the paths! Maybe it's really unfair of me, but it's that traditional intuition I make use of in the novel: magpies pop up in the novel, lone and sinister or in strangely large gangs, too large to be encompassed by the traditional rhyme, 'One for sorrow etc'...

But of course the novel's not really about magpies, but about a woman's fears for her children in an unpredictably changing world, and the charismatic stranger who seems to have special powers...

(How does that sound, and can you believe it, since I've got my promotional hat on?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading group: Austerlitz by W G Sebald

This book, one of my favourites ever, was my suggestion for the group. Narrated by a character who seems very close to the author - a favourite technique of Sebald's, apparently (I have yet to read his other books) - it features the first-person story of Jacques Austerlitz as told to the narrator during a series of initially chance but later arranged meetings from the sixties to the nineties in various European cities and London.

A lonesome and somewhat eccentric figure, Austerlitz is a university teacher of architecture, and begins by sharing with the narrator his fascination with railway architecture - it is in a railway station that they first meet - and, perhaps more importantly, with fortresses and the paradoxes within their design which always lead to their failure as buildings of defence (and ultimate use as prisons). All of this apparently inconsequential and potentially dry material seems yet strangely resonant (although Clare in our group did not find it so). Then on a subsequent meeting (at which point even Clare became engaged) Austerlitz begins to talk more personally and relates his affectless post-war childhood in Wales as the adopted child of a Methodist minister and his wife. Here again there are resonances which seem to float without meaning: Austerlitz's obsession with the drowned village beneath a local reservoir and its tower, a local man's tales of seeing ghosts, and Austerlitz's own childhood sense of a dimension of life which remains invisible. It is only when he is at boarding school and his step-parents are no longer available for questioning (one dead and the other committed to a psychiatric hospital) that he discovers his real name, Austerlitz, and thus any inkling of his European origins, after which he fortresses himself in academic studies and the obsessions with which, during their discussions, the narrator - and this reader - become infected.

During years when Austerlitz and the narrator do not see each other, Austerlitz suffers a serious breakdown which leads him finally to set out to uncover his own origins which inevitably involve the history of Nazi Germany and the Jews.

I told the group that I loved the book, and that I was stunned by the original way it was written. Lacking chapters, it consists of only three sections entirely devoid of paragraphs and which are hardly noticeable as sections as they are divided only by asterisks. Furthermore, long sentences sweep you from one subject to another in a kind of stream of consciousness - one sentence, significantly describing life in the Theresienstadt ghetto, is 11 pages long. The book thus reads like a kind of dream with a dream's weird yet urgent and incontrovertible logic and unanswerable emotional resonance, carrying on the level of form the message that everything in the novel is after all connected: Austerlitz's seemingly dry obsessions turn out to be rooted, stunningly and vividly, in the past which was first hidden from him and which later he failed for a long time even to enquire into.

I said I thought the book was about memory and the repression of memory, and that I thought that Sebald had found a new form to convey them. There were murmurs of agreement and appreciation and Clare and new member Jo said they had loved the book too. I said that there was only one wrong note for me: I know very well that one retrieved memory can open up other lost memories in turn, but it didn't seem to me psychologically convincing that the moment Austerlitz arrives back in his birthplace he so suddenly remembers his post-British early childhood (up to the age of four-and-a-half) in such complete and wholesale detail. I asked Clare, who is a psychotherapist, what she thought about that, and she agreed.

Then Jenny, who had been very quiet up to that point, spoke up and said that she hadn't liked the book. Others were stunned and demanded to know why not. She said, Well, it's such a common story! Presumably she meant the story of the kindertransport of which Austerlitz was of course a part, and I countered that the book wasn't just about that but, as I had said, about memory and repression and the way we deal with loss and pain. Others came in and backed me up, pointing out Austerlitz's signs of repression: his obsessiveness, his depression, his inability to make relationships. Jenny said, But those are the results of his sterile upbringing in Wales. Why didn't Sebald just write about that, why create a whole elaborate device to tack on the story of the Nazis and the Jews? Jo said, No, surely his problems were caused by the replacement of his earlier happy childhood with that sterile upbringing. Jenny said, But he had no memory of that earlier time. I said, But that's the point: it was repressed; his step-parents suppressed the truth, leading him to repress his own memories. Jenny said, But why did it have to be to do with Nazi Gemany and the Jews? And anyway, he didn't repress it, he went looking for his past. I said, But he did repress it: it should have been pretty obvious which way things pointed once he found out his name at the age of 16 or so, yet it took him until middle age and a breakdown to face up to that. As for her objection to its being a kindertransport adoption rather than an ordinary one, I feel we didn't answer Jenny adequately at the time: it would not be simply the memory of an earlier happier childhood which Austerlitz would be repressing, but the climate of fear surrounding his upheaval, which a child of four-and-a-half would pick up. Surely one of the main points of this book is how we try to wipe history, and the way this is played out on the personal level in this novel is extremely moving.

Everyone else in the group thought the book was amazingly moving, and staggered that this could have been the case when the prose style was so spare, even flat, and the story distanced by the double-narrator device. In fact, I think there is something moving about this double-narrator effect: there's a kind of double-exposure which underlines the novel's theme of cloaked meanings and alternative possible lives. At times it's hard to remember which narrator is speaking: the ostensibly objective narrator becomes identified with Austerlitz, and along with him the reader. In this way the concept of narratorial 'objectivity' is challenged and at the same time Austerlitz's psychological state is given a stunning 'objective' authenticity.

John said that he thought it was perhaps the most honest book he had ever read, by which he meant emotionally honest, but Jenny retorted that it wasn't honest at all, it was all device. And then it was Doug's turn to stun us all by saying he wouldn't be reading another Austerlitz* novel. Why? we wanted know. He said that he had thought it was beautifully written, but he could hardly say like the rest of us that he loved it, he couldn't even say he liked it, because he had found it so painful.

At which Jenny said again that she didn't like it at all.

* Whoops, sorry, I meant 'Sebald novel'. (Thanks to Stephen Mitchelmore for pointing out my mistake.) Told you that narrator, author and Austerlitz all seemed close!

Our archived discussions can be found here, and a list of all the books we have discussed here.

Child narrators and adult fiction

Tim Love quotes from the Salt Cyclone virtual book tours which Charles Lambert and I conducted in an article about child narrators in adult fiction.

Meanwhile, I have no idea whether the 2-day removal of my ranking from Amazon for Balancing on the Edge of the World was due to a glitch or to its one erotic story and Amazon's apparent bid to strip all 'adult' content of the ranking facility - see here for details of this last and its disturbing implications, and here to sign the petition in protest.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reading group: The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Jenny suggested this novel about Roseanne McNulty who is nearing her hundredth birthday in the Roscommon mental hospital to which she was committed as a young woman, and her psychiatrist Dr Grene who becomes intrigued by her as the hospital is made ready for closure and his own retirement approaches. Jenny had been interested in the book because her own aunt had been similarly committed for purely moral reasons and in the same way had become so institutionalized that she never left.

The story is told in two alternating first-person narrations: the secret memoir that Roseanne begins writing, in which she looks back over her life and the tragic circumstances, rooted in political and religious conflict, which led her to the asylum, and the journal which Dr Grene begins at the same time to record his professional progress - in particular his unsuccessful attempts to draw Roseanne out - but which also lapses into a private memoir.

I think Jenny wasn't disappointed, and on the whole the group was enthusiastic about this book. People found it a moving, indeed heart-wrenching story, and most especially people loved the writing: Hans arrived with his copy bristling with post-it notes marking sentences and passages he especially liked. It's 'poetic' in that there is a lyrical rhythm and it is profound and startling in its observations. Here's Roseanne summing up a truth behind her own tragedy: '...history as far as I can see it is not the arrangement of what happens, in sequence and in truth, but a fabulous arrangement of surmises and guesses held up as a banner against the assault of withering truth.' Yet the prose is marked by the tics of the characters' psychology as each tries to recall and make sense of their experience, stopping and starting and questioning both their memories and expression. Writing that Roseanne has clearly suffered great pain, and that this 'actually gives her her strange grace', Grene then comments: 'Now, that is not a thought I had before I wrote it down.' In this way the memoir form of the book is unusually dynamic: the journals are not merely vehicles for a story; the actual writing of them moves the characters' development forward. And in this way the book is about not simply Roseanne's particular story - shocking and moving and tied up with the political history of Ireland as it is - but the ways in which we process our own stories and negotiate the aspects of them that are unknown to us.

I said that one thing I loved most about this book was its humanity - the fact that Roseanne never shows bitterness towards those who have wronged her, looking for humanity in even the near-inhuman Father Gaunt, main perpetrator of her wrongs, and the way that both she and Grene constantly reach for understanding. Everyone agreed. Then I said that I did have one caveat about the book, which in fact I was reluctant to mention because I loved the book so much, and it was the same one that the judges had (unusually) admitted to when awarding the book the Costa Prize: I didn't like the way the revelation at the end (which I won't give away here) was achieved. It wasn't convincing, I said, and Ann, Doug and John strongly agreed.

Jenny and Clare didn't quite agree, though, I think: they pointed out all the aspects of the plot which explained the ending and meant that it did all fit together. I said yes, it did all fit together on the level of plot, but I didn't think it worked on the psychological level: there were not enough pointers on that level to make me feel 'Ah yes, of course!' when the truth was revealed. Hans and Doug strongly said that they felt that I'd got to the nub of it. In fact, some people in the group hadn't actually grasped the plot connections, and I think that this was why, because it wasn't backed up by a psychological resolution.

Then Doug revealed that he hadn't liked the book nearly as much as the rest of us, and this seemed to be because he found other aspects of it unbelievable: the fact that Roseanne could have been incarcerated merely on moral grounds and for the rest of her life, and the appalling coldness and cruelty of the priest and her mother-in-law who had put her there. There was now a chorus of objection: Jenny referred back to her aunt, and Clare, who is a psychotherapist, said that she had worked with women in such circumstances as late as the seventies and eighties, and not even in rural Ireland as in the book, but in England. I said that there were exactly parallel stories in the Irish side of my own family, in which people were excommunicated by priests and shunned by the family for similar moral, political and religious reasons. In fact, I said, when I had previously read Barry's earlier novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, in which a minor (though not insignificant) character in The Secret Scripture takes centre stage, I felt as though Barry had somehow heard about a particular member of my own family. Thus I found myself in a very weird situation, for me: it's usually Trevor in the group who appeals to life to justify novels, and I who wag my literary finger and insist that appeals to life are irrelevant because a book has to convince on its own.

Indeed, I said, one of the things which moved me tremendously about The Secret Scripture is that it picks up and makes central an encounter in The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty which there seemed strangely incidental yet remained one of my strongest and most resonant memories of that book. Perhaps what is so moving about the cross-novel connections which Barry creates is the way that they formally demonstrate the marginalization of people and their searing experience in a situation of political and religious prejudice. And I must say that everyone in the group, none of whom knew of the other book, was very intrigued by this connection.

And then, for the rest of the evening, we discussed the real-life issues which the book and Doug's objection had raised.

Our archived discussions can be found here, and a list of all the books we have discussed here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

John Siddique and Mark Illis at Central Library

Had a very nice evening yesterday: I went to the Manchester launch of John Siddique's poetry collection, Recital: An Almanac, and Mark Illis's story collection, Tender, both of them new books from Salt. Central Library committee room was packed out for two riveting readings. The two authors had provided bubbly wine, so groan, but also yum, I succumbed (I've been staying off alcohol lately.) I had been to John's London launch last week, but it's even better the second time you hear poems, I think. John's book is unified by the theme of the lunar year, and Mark's by the fact that the stories trace the history of a family over a number of years, taking different viewpoints along the way. The one he read out, from the teenage daughter's point of view, was very moving, and his prose style is light but incisive. A member of the audience asked him what was the difference between a collection like this and a novel, and Mark (who is also a novelist) said that he didn't feel there was a lot difference: on the whole he'd say it's a kind of transition/hybrid form, though he plumped to have this book published as stories as that was how he'd approached it in the writing: piecemeal and out of sequence. I had met Mark previously when he was a Centre Director for Arvon at Lumb Bank and invited me to tutor there, and it was great to meet him again. He's also an Emmerdale writer, and two other Emmerdale writers had come to hear him read: Peter Kerry whom I know, and whose surreal short play about a call centre I had seen last weekend at an enterprising evening of short plays by television writers at the Joshua Brooks pub, and Stephen May, whose exciting-sounding novel Tag, about a gifted but troublesome teenage girl, is published by Cinnamon Press.

After the reading I was meeting my John, and when I rang him he turned out to be in Thom's Chophouse with a former work colleague and her two friends whom he'd met in Waterstone's, so there I repaired. They fell on Mark's book with interest (I didn't have John's with me as I'd bought it in London), especially when they saw that it had an endorsement from Anne Enright. And then we talked about The Gathering, which turned out to be one of Irish Theresa's favourite books as well as mine, and other books, and oh guess what, I thought, in for a penny, and I ordered more wine...

Here are some photos of the launch:

Mark reads:

John reads:

John signs books:

Mark signs my book:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A nice review and I'm high!

I dunno, however long you go on in this business you never stop being thrilled when someone likes your books. Today Jamieson Wolf wrote a lovely post about Balancing, and I am walking around two inches taller and smelling spring in the air!!:
I needed a really amazing book to shake away the sweetness of so much brain candy... That book was, and is, Balancing on the Edge of the World by Elizabeth Baines... And, oddly enough, it seems like Elizabeth has seen into my childhood. I will write a longer review later, but suffice it to say: Balancing on the Edge of the World is lovely.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney: the book tour

It is my great pleasure today to host Sue Guiney on her tour with her impressive novel, Tangled Roots.

Tangled Roots is a book which makes exciting metaphorical and formal use of the space-time ideas of physics to portray the lives of a mother and son whose relationship has been fraught and who indeed are finally more or less estranged. From different points in space and time, John, a physics professor, and his mother Grace present their first-person accounts – Grace from her old age, and John from a time after her death when he is forty years old, academically successful and good-looking, yet nevertheless alone in the world and suffering from the vague despair which has blighted his whole life so far, and for which indeed he still blames his mother. These accounts contrast deeply, yet by offering them in alternating sections, the novel slyly links them like the ‘entangled particles’ to which John refers, those quantum particles which, so the theory goes, retain a relationship to each other even when they are widely separated. It’s a story of Grace’s flight from tragedy across the globe, from America to London and back again, a tragedy which however re-emerges in the emotional consequences for her son. Telling this story to strangers is Grace’s old-age balm. And it is by telling himself his own story that John too can find his salvation, face his own past and move on to make not only a stunning scientific breakthrough but a reconnection with his family’s more distant Jewish past.

This is a novel about memory and the power of story-telling, about the nature of reality and the relationship of the past to the present, about the influences we have on each others’ lives – all my favourite preoccupations. I put it down burning with questions as to how Sue had achieved it, and here’s the interview we conducted:

EB: Sue, the usual advice to budding writers is 'Write what you know'. I'm so impressed by your panache in using theoretical physics both as subject-matter and metaphorically that what I want to know (!) is how much of it you knew beforehand and how much did you need to research? And what is your attitude to this idea, writing what you know and what you don't?

SG: About physics, I knew nothing. But I read and read and read, and then I reread everything I had already read and tried desperately to keep it in my head. It wasn’t easy, but I loved it. It forced me to think in different ways, to see the world through a different set of metaphors, and that helped me create the character of John. The question about writing what you know is a bit sticky. I don’t think you have to write only what you have experienced yourself, but I do think the best writing comes from a personal resonance with the writer’s own emotional life. For example, I have never (thankfully) been clinically depressed and hospitalized, but we have all experienced moments of extreme sadness and I tried to extrapolate from that experience, to bring it further into an imaginary realm. We all learn as we live, and so there is little that we can’t know if we are open to the world around us and the effect that world has on us. The writing, I would like to think, comes from that openness to experience. So, I guess the answer is yes and no :-)

EB: That's so true, I think - it really depends what you mean by 'knowing'. What about your theme of mothers and sons, though, which seems to me such a very specific relationship/experience - and which you underpin so cleverly with these space-time motifs? I know you've touched on it before on this tour, the fact that you have sons yourself, but what I'm wondering is, do you think you needed that experience to portray the relationship between John and Grace in such psychological depth?

SG: Certainly, my experience as a mother of sons urged me towards writing about that relationship, but I was also interested in exploring how that relationship can change when experienced by a different personality than my own. There is definitely a “what if” factor that goes into the writing, which is the imaginative leap. Writing allows me to place myself, in a different persona, into a situation and see how “I” might then react. In other words, “what if” I was a mother with the sorts of struggles that Grace faced? How would I react? How would that affect the relationships around me, not only with my son, but also with a daughter, my husband, my friends. I often joke that by writing about emotional crises I then don’t actually have to experience them in my own life. If I write about a nervous breakdown then I don’t have to have one myself. Handy, that.

EB: That's so interesting! In other words, it's quite the opposite of what people often suspect about the relationship of writers to their material! Now to turn from material to form. You write poetry and plays as well as fiction - including a play in verse which I find pretty awesome! Did you find that the skills and techniques you have developed in these other areas influenced the way you wrote the novel, or do you think that they are quite separate disciplines?

SG: I really believe that all writing must be poetry if it is to have emotional impact and truth. I have had several conversations with prose writers who claim they can’t write poetry. But when I read their beautifully crafted, metaphorical prose (like your is) I have to say that for me, there is no difference. That “prose” is also “poetry.” Okay, there are different line breaks, different uses of white space. But when the writing is really clicking and there is magic in the language and a moment is distilled to its most powerful, then that, to me, is poetry no matter what form it finds itself in. And that’s always what I strive for. If anything, I find that if I neglect writing poetry while I’m caught up in writing a novel, then the novel writing suffers. It has as much to do with my ears and the way I hear language as anything else.

EB: Ah! Personally, I recognize this: the 'hearing' of the language of a novel - but knowing that you're an accomplished violinist, I'm wondering how much of this for you is to do with the fact that you're a musician?

SG: You know, I have wondered about this. And although I certainly don’t think you need to be a musician in order to be a writer, I definitely think that my own musical abilities affect my writing. I hear cadence and rhythm in each sentence, and I know when I do revisions it is often a missed rhythm or a sort of dissonance which will signal that something must be fixed. Yes, the sound of the sentence even before the meaning of it. To be honest, it can make the editing difficult, because I get caught up in the sound of the language sometimes and lose sight of whether I’m actually saying what I mean to say! I’m very lucky to have these two strands to my bow (excuse the pun) and I certainly don’t take it for granted. If anything it makes me realize that I always need to practice more than I do...both the violin and the pen.

EB: Sue, thanks so much for such a great insight into your processes!

Do buy Tangled Roots. You can do it now by clicking here.

Sue's next and final tour stop will be at Nik Jones' place at the end of the month.

The previous stops were as follows:
Chez Aspie where the tour was launched
Jamieson Wolf who spent a week asking all sorts of questions and then talked about The Book Movie.
Tea Stains where Sue discussed the connection between art and science, and the importance of place in her writing
Trixie on the Hunt where she was forced to divulge what makes her tick
The Dotterel where she did some serious untangling
Tania Writes where sue and Tania Hershman got into the mind of the scientist.
BT-The Crafty Gardener where she talked a lot about Russia