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Comment from the book world in February 2014

February 2014

'Fiction springs irresponsible and unfettered'

22 February 2014

'Fiction springs irresponsible and unfettered from every soil. A novel is an entertainment, worked over, calculated, staged, shaped. Yet its genesis is always in the writer's real pleasures, enthusiasms, griefs and confusions. Writing one is quite unlike journalism. In earlier novels the rags of my real preoccupations kept surfacing unexpectedly, interwoven into brand new garments. Threads come in from all directions: the sea, the spiritual poverty of modern education, variety artistes, idealistic organic farmers, the modern military, unrequited love, Venice, Transsexualism, late Shakespeare. So it was probably inevitable that the most intense and disastrous experience of all would provoke a fictional mother and a fictional grief: both real and unreal...

As a reader I'm all for good biography, autobiography and memoir. But there is a magic in novels: in writers who plunge over the edge and offer a whole parallel universe. Novel writing is not easy, and only rarely makes much money. Often (certainly in my case) it only partially succeeds. Yet novels feed something in us that non-fiction never can. It is a form worth trying, both as a reader and as a writer. And for judging a novel, I have never found a better set of tests than the grumpy ones ascribed to Philip Larkin: "Do I believe it? Do I care? Will I go on caring?" If you get as far as the second, you're winning.'

Libby Purves, author of Shadow Child and Acting Up, in The Times

'I have never had writer's block'

17 February 2014

'When you write popular books, it is easy to be maligned. When I write I don't know what is going to happen next, so if I don't know, the reader doesn't. I have never had writer's block - I am really lucky. I am a born storyteller. I started writing when I was 8. I used to read Dickens and Harold Robbins and thought, this is what I want to do...

I have a good relationship with my sister. I don't know where this thing came from, that we are enemies. We are very different but she has always been a agood sister to me, I never wanted to be anyone's little sister, so I said to myself I would carve my own path: I wanted to write. Everybody said, you can't do it, you did not go to college. And I said, I can do whatever I want to do.'

Jackie Collins, author of Confessions of a Wild Child, in The Times

'A novel is more like falling in love.'

10 February 2014

'It's very bad to write a novel by act of will. I can do a book of nonfiction that way - just sign the contract and do the book because, provided the topic has some meaning for me, I know I can do it. A novel is more like falling in love. You don't say, "I'm going to fall in love next Tuesday, I'm going to begin my novel." The novel has to come to you. It has to feel just like love.'

Norman Mailer, author of The Executioner's Song and The Fight, interviewed in 2009, in The Times



'Words gave me a career'

3 February 2014

'This is certainly not the writer's life I anticipated when I opened that first acceptance latter, when I first met someone who'd read me. This isn't what I aimed for when I sneaked out short stories between working in all kinds of centres and hospitals and facilities. The workshops taught me that you move beyond your fears, find the words to name yourself, make demands, celebrate joys, protest pains, then you can start to move your world. I grew up as a writer seeing that language is a monumental force, that it constantly works upon us, for good and ill, that it can redefine us, rehearse the changes we want, establish our humanity...

Words gave me a career, but for a while my own story was slipping away. I'd ended up simply rattling along within an unruly life, inside a country intent on dismantling its schools, boiling down its libraries, dismantling its media, swallowing its tongue - a country that went to war on the strength of deceptive phrasing. What made me first love words was the idea of a story being shared between people, of voice- it was the big, daft joy of making a noise to prove you're still here and maybe about to make something happen, something impossible, but you'll make it anyway. I needed to get back to that love.'

A L Kennedy, author of What Becomes? in The Times