One thing that all good writers do is … READ. Yep, we read .. lots. Often it is because we were avid readers that we are also writers.
Before I start writing a new book I go on a reading spree of books that give me background and information. These are usually non-fiction and, when about complicated subjects, they may be the populist versions so I can ‘get a handle’ on the topic, and follow up with more in-depth studies if required. Sometimes the book isn’t exactly what I wanted or was expecting, but I always finish it because nuggets of information get stored away and can, and do, pop into a story somewhere or another, or even merely inform a character’s belief or thought processes.
Then, while I am writing, I am always looking things up for reference, to get things right. Oh, and this is where the internet is wonderful… such a range of information at our fingertips. When I wrote my first (released) novel the internet didn’t exist and any research had to be done via the library or by asking people I knew who happened to have the expertise or knowledge I needed.
Writers read for pleasure too, of course, but here is the problem. If I am writing at the same time as reading a novel I have to be very careful not to pick up the ‘voice’ of the author.
The Author’s Voice is one of the things that differentiates authors one from another, it is also, sometimes, why someone will like to read a particular author.
The publishing world talk about the author’s voice a lot … and so when you find your own you do not want to muddy it with echoes of another
So, it was useful that I was taking a break from writing to do a final proof of Nothing Ever Happens Here, before it is released as a paperback, when I started reading Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ as I fear that Donna Tartt’s voice would have infiltrated my writing far too much.
No spoilers here.. I really dislike reviews that ‘tell the story’. The author has told you all they want you to know before you read, on the back of the book or the online description (this because I read it on kindle) see below:
“Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.”
My review: I found this a rich and intense read. There is so much description that progress is frequently very slow, but what rich, embroidered, gilt-edged, magnified, textured, illuminated description it is. I doubt any new authors would be permitted to let such a work reach the reader. Is it too much? Many of the other reviewers have found it so. I revelled in the descriptions, while acknowledging their draw-backs. (I am a closet describer – I’d love to ‘go off on one’ and use such language – but it does not suit my style or my voice and, I suspect, would not suit my readers.) It is also ‘referenced’ to many other written works in subtle, and some not so subtle, ways. (I like this as I am partial to doing similar with my characters’ names, though noticing it was not necessary it was a bit like ‘getting an in joke’.) Did I enjoy the book?. To be honest, not as a story, but as an experience, yes. Perhaps the setting being in the US did not resonate with me? Perhaps the lifestyle of the main character, Theo, did not feel believable enough? I note I was more in tune with him when he was learning how to help restore furniture than at any other time. At no time did I have hopes or fears for him (or any of the other characters) despite there being plenty of reasons to have hopes or fears. The ending, I felt was a bit too much tell not show, with a pulling together of the handkerchief corners of philosophy, experience, life and death all into a bundle and handed to us by Theo. As a bonus it has made me, like many others, look up the painting that is at the centre of the story and appreciate it.
Have you read The Goldfinch? What did you think?
I am thinking of doing occasional book-reviews as a regular feature? Would you like to see these here on my blog .. or not?
Do let me know … I’d love to hear what you think.