DWJ in Dublin

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Mon May 20 01:43:27 EDT 2002

Sent this off last night, but it never posted.  Apologies if it turns up twice.

>Well, here it is.  Summary of last night's speech.  Despite Hallie's
>confidence in me, I doubt it's brilliant; I kept getting so interested
>in the speech I forgot to write things down!

It's great.  I'd managed to forget some things already, but have 
remembered bits with the help of your summary - so I'm adding some, 
and maybe that'll jog your or Joe's memory even more.  We need to get 
every bit of this speech that we can squeezed onto posts so all can 

>Then she moved on to say that it's very important to her to get
>physically into a book and feel everything that's happening in it.
>This makes her very absent-minded when she's writing, and she walks
>about muttering to herself in the street or trying to cook her
>husband's shoes for dinner.

Right, and she also talked about writing Dogsbody, and *knowing* she 
wasn't a dog, but still feeling very like one - experiencing that 
wonderful spine-arching stretch, and lifting your hind leg to scratch 
behind your left ear - in fact, she said she *still* felt itchy 
behind her left ear. :)  And she also talked of putting the pages 
which had Sol on them, quite unself-consciously, in the sunny patch 
on her desk, so that they could be checked for accuracy.

>She returned to Carol Oneir to point out that Carol has only five main
>characters in her dreams, which she reuses over and over again.  This
>is something that writers are not allowed to admit to doing (even
>though painters can paint the same haystack over and over again!), but
>she says that many writers, including herself, do do it.  She said
>that when you have a character in your head for a long time, that
>character becomes very real, and develops quirks and personality
>traits and acts like a real person.  But you don't necessarily have to
>use *all* of a character in a given book, so she will use part of one
>of her "stock people" in one book, and another part in another book.
>She gave some examples - Tom Lynn and the Goon are two halves of the
>one character, as are Howl and the Silver Keeper, or Torquil and
>Tacroy.  She also does this with real people, splitting them up and
>putting bits here and bits there.  Douglas and Caspar are both her
>eldest son, for instance.

She put it so wonderfully - if only I could remember it exactly what 
it was!  Not just that the characters were so real, but also that 
they were so rounded that you could divide them in two or cut off 
bits of them, and they'd still be real.  And Himself and *who* are 
her father?  In the Dalemark books - you'll remember Dorian, now that 
I've got the blank this far?


>[Another thing she feels is important - and another trap that Carol
>Oneir fell into - is to resist the pressure to do the same thing over
>and over again.  She also noted that characters can run off with the
>story, and also that stories can run off with themselves!  Both of
>these situations may be bad or good.  A story also has a shape,
>generally a drawable, geometrical shape, within which you have to make
>sure it stays, otherwise it will fail.

I was fascinated by the idea that she could draw a shape for the 
books, and looking hopefully at the large pad of paper behind her! 
Also, wasn't it that if you couldn't draw the shape, the book was a 
loss or a mess?


>She mentioned that all of her books have a particular season or
>seasons; she feels the changing of the seasons is very important,
>which is a feeling she acquired in childhood.  She said she translated
>parts of her childhood into her books, and she needs something like
>that in each book, but she always asks herself if the experience she's
>translating will be valuable to others besides herself.  It can't go
>in unless it's going to be valuable.

Yes, the season bit was one of the advantages of her childhood - 
living out in the country, where children could be especially attuned 
to the changing seasons.  Um,  what were they - LoCC was autumnal, 
"golden autumn" (or was that Charmed Life?), and F&H contained 
several cycles of seasons, and that was important too.

>She talked about the three different gardens she had access to as a
>child, and says that each of them goes into a book too.  First is the
>"yard of life and death", the gravelled yard where the children played
>boisterous games and the clothes-lines were a danger to life and limb.
>This, she said, is the place where things start in books.  Then there
>was a formal garden where they had quiet fun, playing make-up games
>(which sound much like Polly and Tom's make-ups).

To me too!  In fact, she actually said they were the walking around 
type of making things up game, which related it even more closely to 
Tom and Polly at the funeral, iirc.

>This is the place
>where the central parts of the book are made, and the source of its
>formal patterns.  And then there was the walled garden with the roses
>and the apple-trees and the homicidal bees, and this is the home of
>the mystery and beauty at the heart of the book.

And "the numinous".  I liked that...

Thanks again, Dorian.


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