Yesterday morning was spent with the Australian author Kate Grenville.
Well, along a room full of people at the Noosa Long Weekend Literary and Arts Festival.
She was talking with Richard Fidler about her trilogy The Secret River, The Lieutenant, and the newly released Sarah Thornhill, based on her family history.
She has been a target for some historians who disagreed with the way she wrote ‘The Secret River’. Perhaps they felt she didn’t stick with the facts, which, she explained, only took her to a certain point, the rest she had to fill in with plausible fiction.
But isn’t that what historical fiction is any way?
She said she didn’t like reading this kind of fiction herself, so had struggled with writing it but felt it was important. The book ‘Searching for The Secret River’ came from this ‘grey’ area- to explain why and how she wrote ‘The Secret River’; a way of answering questions and those critics.
She talked about the journey into her family history, about not glossing over the ‘yucky’ bits and talking about the ‘shared’ history of the white ‘settlers’ and the Aboriginals.
Kate has a soft, gentle voice which is easy and compelling to listen to; I would love to have been a pupil in her writing classes, which she no longer teaches but her knowledge can be found in print
I love hearing her talk about writing; I like to hear how others do it!
Like me, she had to write around young children, to their time table. She would write while they were at school, then once three o’clock came it was pen down and family took over. This, she said, in a way was a disciplined way to write, to a deadline; there was this amount of time and she would glue herself to the seat and write. And while she didn’t always have an objective or particular story to go on with, she did have prompts to write from or her own notes of reminders, which she would go on to expand.
She also said forget about plot, it will take care of itself. The same for characters- don’t ‘write’ a character, let the character evolve with the story, and the character will write itself.
I have always written like this, I could never be bothered being so organised as to write a plot line or a character outline first, I’ve felt it stifles the creative flow of the story and the character. I begin with a spark, let the story progress at its own pace and take you in the direction it naturally finds, and the characters tell you who they are.
Kate Grenville said it was like ‘channelling the story from the cosmos’, which I can relate to; it’s as if the story is flowing out of your pen, writing itself, showing you who and what it should be.
I think the big message I came away with is there is no wrong way or right way to write; if it feels right to you, then that is right for you.
All you do need to do is pick up the pen and put it to paper and let the words flow.
So, let’s get to it- happy writing!!
Thanks to Kate Grenville for an entertaining and enriching morning!!