Wise Words to the Novelist

Alice Hoffman said,
“For me, a novel isn’t autobiographical in “real time” – but my life is there, transfigured by fiction. I think of a novel the way analysts deconstruct a dream – the dreamer is every character in his or her dream, including the cat and the dog. Or, think of it this way: Your life is a mirror. You throw it down on the ground. It shatters into thousands of pieces. You can never recreate the mirror as it was, but each piece is still a part of the mirror, a part of the writer’s life.
For me, reality in art is a false construct. We are creating life from ink, print, paper and wanting characters to “feel” like flesh and blood. Can you fall in love with a fictional character? Absolutely. Can you detest one? Certainly. Can one renew your faith? I think so.”

Brilliant, I say. A friend of mine told me to stop worrying what people would think of my characters, that it was their issue if they attached my writing to me, to my real world. And yet, we all do it, don’t we?

I can’t read a Harlen Coben book without wondering who abandoned him in his past, I’ll have to ask him about that someday. There are the obvious nods to one’s youth when a mature writer finds their strength in writing novels that take place in a “gentler time.”

As much as I hate the boxing in, the genre-specific labels we gives writers, it is a marketing tool and something to think about. There is something to be said for the bookseller who can recommend a book based on your former choices, your author likes and dislikes.

Sort of like what this site does.

In thinking about my writing from a marketing perspective, I will probably never publish the first novel, a courtroom thriller, as it was a one time story fed to me by a civil rights attorney whom I am no longer in touch with, and without the ESQ. tag after my name, no one would be buying it, nor do I think I could do that again, though I had a lot of fun sending NJ mobsters on a chase that ended in a country bar with a wall of collectible Barbies.

So the question is, do I really want to be known as the author of novels of messed up lovelorn women, confused, sexually charged men and sociopathic murderers?

Why not? Someone will surely call it honest and thought-provoking work. Or a piece of crap.

And at least one of my friends or family members will claim to see a piece of themself in the pages.

Let’s hope the agents I pitch to this month will be intrigued enough – by the story AND by me to want to take me on.

3 responses on “Wise Words to the Novelist

  1. Churlita

    Nice. I really liked it when I first moved to Iowa City and I’d read Vonnegut, or Irving or Mukherjee and see pieces of people or places I knew in their fiction. When I took my daughter to a John Irving reading last Spring, he vividly described the street my daughter lived around the corner from, when she was little in his story and it made her want to read everything he’s written.

  2. painted maypole

    good luck with your pitching.

    the woman who used to teach sunday school to my daughter writes murder mysteries – publishing about one a year… including one where the serial killer kills pretty blond girls. Like my daughter.

    😉

    We tried to assume that had NOTHING to do with her history.