The books I loved in childhood – the first loves – I’ve read so often that I’ve internalized them in some really essential way: they are more inside me now than out.
There’s an expectation these days that novels – like any other consumer product – should be made on a production line, with one dropping from the conveyor belt every couple of years.
When I’m writing, I am concentrating almost wholly on concrete detail: the color a room is painted, the way a drop of water rolls off a wet leaf after a rain.
But romantic vision can also lead one away from certain very hard, ugly truths about life that are important to know.
The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn’t. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice – by work.
It’s hard for me to show work while I’m writing, because other people’s comments will influence what happens.
The novel is about five students of classics who are studying with a classics professor, and they take the ideas of the things that they’re learning from him a bit too seriously, with terrible consequences.
I just finished writing an essay about William Maxwell, an American writer whose work I admire very much.
I’m not sure whay I’ve been drawn to this subject, except that murder is a subject that has always drawn people for as long as people have been telling stories.
Children – if you think back really what it was like to be a child and what it was like to know other children – children lie all the time.
In order for a long piece of work to engage a novelist over an extended period of time, it has to deal with questions that you find very important, that you’re trying to work out.
I believe, in a funny way, the job of the novelist is to be out there on the fringes and speaking for an experience that has not really been spoken for.
Taking on challenging projects is the way that one grows and extends one’s range as a writer, one’s technical command, so I consider the time well-spent.
Children have very sharp powers of observation – probably sharper than adults – yet at the same time their emotional reactions are murky and much more primitive.
My novels aren’t really generated by a single conceptual spark; it’s more a process of many different elements that come together unexpectedly over a long period of time.
I love the tradition of Dickens, where even the most minor walk-on characters are twitching and particular and alive.
So I’m not a Southern writer in the commonly held sense of the term, like Faulkner or Eudora Welty, who took the South for their entire literary environment and subject matter.
The Little Friend is a long book. It’s also completely different from my first novel: different landscape, different characters, different use of language and diction, different approach to story.
You are – all your experience just kind of accumulates, and the novel takes a richness of its own simply because it has the weight of all those years that one’s put into it.
Well, I do have some maiden aunts that are not quite like the aunts in the book, but I definitely do have a couple of them, and a couple of old aunties.
On the other hand, I mean, that is what writers have always been supposed to do, was to rely on their own devices and to – I mean, writing is a lonely business.