From Laila Lalami’s blog, in which she describes a reading in which she was put on trial by several religiously conservative students:
As I talked, I realized that this young man (and indeed several of the people who were so eager to ask questions that put literature on trial) was not a regular reader of books. It seems impossible to me that anyone who reads novels on a usual basis could come up with such a reductive interpretation, and I felt an overwhelming sadness, for him, and for what he was missing. After the reading, he came up to the podium to have his picture taken with me. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if he had asked that question because he truly felt the way he said he did, or because he thought it would be funny, or if he was just being a punk. I think what upset me most was this expectation that my work, or literature in general, should be a stage in which good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. In other words, what this student wanted was a fairytale. Life is not like that, and neither is literature.
For you travel writers out there, or for people who like to travel, or better, read about travel, a collection of interviews for you, with some of the best known travellers in the world. Here’s what Bob Shacochis has to say about research:
The biggest challenge in the research process is to let go, to stop, to say enough, and then to reduce all of that beloved labor down to a few succinct paragraphs that shape the background to your narrative. I love research—that’s all the fun, especially in the field. To write, however, is to suffer, and my pieces usually come in thousands of words over the assigned length. That’s a serious flaw in my writing process—shaping and disciplining the footlockers of material one has so happily gathered.
I came across a blog adding its two cents for the best and worst interview questions ever, their favorite specifically being: “Tell me about a time when your integrity was challenged?”
Their integrity will be challenged and it is just a matter of time when. This question provides insight into where their line in the sand is and how they respond in these situations.
Interesting. As a writer one assumes, of course, that the morals of one’s fictional characters are vitally important, but it’s not a question I specifically ask myself as I write. With Shadow Touch, for example, I never really sat down and listed Rictor’s moral challenges, or all the times that Artur did something bad while he was working for the mafia. It was much more of an organic process, springing entirely from my sense of the characters. On the other hand, as an exercise (fictional, or otherwise), it’s a really good one.
Finally, an interview wtih Guy Gavriel Kay, fantasy author:
I�m currently most engaged by examining how the past doesn�t leave us (whether personal or cultural, small or large-scaled). Myth and legend, religious transition, folklore and propaganda � all of these play roles in this. We live in a startlingly a-historical era with far too little knowledge of even the recent past, the mistakes made, the truths learned once and forgotten. Assumptions that the �way things are� has always been so, an arrogance about �today� (the flipside is a western self-flagellation element, and this, too, turns on a lack of historical awareness). I think fantasy is a superlative tool, when used properly, to induce readers to shed prejudices about a given period (and their intimidation by it) and to look at a tale set in a fantasy analogue of a given time as being more not less connected to them � in the same way that when we read in a fairy tale that �the only daughter of a fisherman walked down to the strand�� we are all linked to that only daughter (or the third son of a woodcutter!). This is what folktales were (and are) about � erasing the distance between reader/listener and story.