What writers do odd-habits-wise. All have their foibles. For example, I’ve read one who noted that while writing she keeps pictures of her characters pinned to the wall in front of her.
I usually listen to music. Writing the Atlantic Lives novels, I [re]played lots of 1980s-90s music. Hearing the likes of Roxette once more helped me move my mind back to that era.
I’m leaving Dad’s today and returning for a few days to my “hermit-life” in the Catskills. Before I came down here (to Pennsylvania) I’d been rewatching John Adams, the 2008 HBO miniseries about one of America’s founding fathers. The other day I was particularly caught by the music used in the balloon ascent over Paris scene, and found myself thinking, “That’s gorgeous.”
I try to do a blog post here each morning. However, it is often a challenge doing so. Yet I push myself to do it not only because daily posts are unsurprisingly a good way to keep visitors coming back, but also because writing one usually spurs my thinking about what I may be writing novel-wise afterwards during the “work day.”
After the post goes up, assorted “life necessities” are dealt with. And if he’s with us, the hound gets his walkie. Then it’s time to go “to work.”
It has to be seen as “a job.” I lock myself away from distractions. Usually I play familiar music softly in the background (often to muffle external noises), and, possibly for several hours at a stretch, attack more of the tale that is currently “under construction.”
“I hear lots of tap, tap, tapping. You’re writing away….”
That was my wife trying to get my attention as I sat on the sofa working just before lunchtime yesterday. The lounge had been quiet, and she had been outside reading and enjoying the sun. I must admit I nearly hit the ceiling when she broke the silence.
I’ve written well over two dozen pages in just the last few days. They consist of mostly purely fictional characters and scenes. Once I find I have a “drive” to get a chapter or two, or three, or four, decently-written, I become focused on that to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
“Oh, I see so you aren’t fully with me today,” she laughed when my body language and bewildered, mumbled reply must have indicated I had been returned to 2016 Spain totally unexpectedly.
It is a great way to start the new year: yesterday, the light bulb went on over my head. I don’t recall precisely what had led my mind down this route. However, one irritation certainly helped encourage me.
We see this a lot. Recently on Twitter, I encountered yet another person who authoritatively tweets easily debunked false/misleading Thomas Jefferson quotes. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this person do it, and, fed up with saying nothing, when I finally pointed one out to him as provably false evidently he thought joking about it justifies messing around with the historical record. He chose not to delete, or even to amend, that tweet, and as of today it remains up for his “100,000” Twitter followers and anyone else to stumble upon as “fact”:
Seeing that nonsense may have helped clarify my thinking. I know now what I’m going to try to do for my fourth novel. After my mind focused on the idea, I clicked around on the net to scope out any similar books and I’ve seen nothing exactly like it so far.
Hello! Made it! Woke up in the dark here in the Catskills – still feeling on U.K. time.
Just had a coffee in my favorite mug, which sat in the cupboard waiting all these months….
“I cannot live without books.” That is an actual Thomas Jefferson quote. Yes, a real one.
We flew into Newark airport yesterday afternoon.
Boarding at Heathrow, in our row sat – of all things – a 60ish Australian lawyer who’d been to the Australia dismantlement of England at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night. He was heading to New York, he’d said, because Australia wasn’t playing again for a while. He had decided to “hop over” to the U.S. for a week before flying back to England for the next match.
The net is wonderful in so many ways. It brings together those of us who otherwise would never have known each other. It allows us to share so much with others who may be equally enthusiastic about…. whatever it is we’re enthusiastic about.
I’ve read quite a lot of Thomas Jefferson over the years. You may know the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. diplomat in France from 1784-89 (a period of his life that, you may not be shocked to learn, has always been of particular interest to me), first Secretary of State, Vice President, and finally 3rd President, even gets casual mentions in my novels. That’s because, unsurprisingly perhaps based on my real-life interest, I’ve made “James” something of a “fan” too – and by this 3rd novel it’s well-known among other characters, who sometimes have some fun with it:
So when I saw this quote on Twitter a few days ago, I’d thought: How interesting? Hmm. I’ve never seen that before?:
I’m a borderline obsessive about a “perfect book.” Of course, we all know there’s no such creature. But I’ve now reached the horrible point where I was about a year ago – when I was finishing Passports…. before the creation of this site (in December) provided me a handy platform to go on and on with you about finishing it!
I’m tinkering with a word here and there, etc. And, worse, now I have a brand new desk on which to do that too!😉
I know, I know: at some point, one just has to call it a day, term it “complete”…. and move on to the next book.
A late in the day post, relatively speaking, from me, I know. It’s just that our domestic broadband just went “live,” and I’m taking advantage of it over a cup of coffee. After over a week “in the internet wilderness” (restricted only to spotty and at times even totally unusable mobile broadband), I feel I am properly back with you all! And with solid (and no longer astronomically expensive) net access, in coming days I can FINALLY get the new book polished off! (And then immediately begin fretting over the next volume, which I’ve already started.)
No desk yet, though: the last of this book will be completed on the dining room table. And we’re unpacking still, post-move. I’ve been at it much of the day. I’ve also reconstructed – for the third house – some cool bookshelves we like:
Getting that done felt good: they are a jigsaw puzzle to rebuild, to say the least. Yes, top left hand corner, is an American flag clock: a gift from my parents back in, I think, 2002. It has been on numerous walls here in Britain over the years. To the top right, caught in frame, that’s a print of Sydney, Australia – a fantastic city we love. Best of all, hey, look at what I unboxed a little while ago:
He’s soon to go up on yet another office wall. That print was another gift many years ago from my parents. Mr. Jefferson has followed me across the Atlantic, and this here in Trowbridge will now be his fifth English home.
I am sincerely one of those, & would rather be in dependance on Gr. Br. properly limited than on any nation upon earth, or than on no nation. but I am one of those too who rather than submit to the right of legislating for us assumed by the British parl. & which late experience has shewn they will so cruelly exercise, would lend my hand to sink the whole island in the ocean.
So I find it mildly amusing hanging him up on walls all over the country. I also firmly believe he would have a much more friendly view of the British government of today. I’m also pretty sure he would be ecstatic at the stable republic that eventually evolved on the other side of the Channel. (What he would have thought of the two huge, twentieth century, U.S. military interventions in that country is, of course, another question.)
Have a good what’s left of your Monday, wherever you are in the world.🙂
A point of view: When historical fiction is more truthful than historical fact
“More truthful” are the key words in that headline. An historian would argue that mixing fiction with history is precisely where a great danger lies. However, according to Lisa Jardine, a professor of Renaissance Studies (in the Humanities) at the University of London, and writing at the BBC web site, there is apparently little to worry about:
….For some time I have been researching the lives of a group of scientists who worked on the development of the atomic bomb during World War Two. Although there are several impeccably researched non-fiction works on the subject and a number of biographies, none of these really conveyed to me the emotions and convictions that drove their work – I simply could not connect with the personal principles of the scientists who collaborated with such energy to produce the period’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
In my search for understanding the motivation of those who joined the race to produce the bomb whose use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki appalled the world, I eventually decided to turn from fact to fiction. If historians could not fill the gaps in the record that made the knowledge I was after so elusive, perhaps storytellers less shackled by documented evidence might do so….
….Sometimes it takes something other than perfect fidelity to sharpen our senses, to focus our attention sympathetically, in order to give us emotional access to the past. Silence comes between the historian and the truth he or she looks to the sources to reveal. Thank goodness for the creative imagination of fiction writers, who can reconnect us with the historical feelings, as well as the facts.
I am very uncomfortable with that “point of view.” Here’s why.
In the absence of their own words and thoughts, it is perfectly understandable some desire to invent words and thoughts in order to be better illuminate historical figures’ motivations. However, there is a line. Every writer must be cognizant of it.
If you have seen the John Adams miniseries, you heard dialogue coming from historical figures. As something of a Thomas Jefferson hobbyist, I discerned just about everything the Thomas Jefferson character said on screen was something Jefferson had written at some point in his life. It may have not been written in the exact context used in the series, but Jefferson pretty much said it at some time or another.
Relatedly, coincidentally you may know I just decided to entertain myself with a read of The Winds Of War. Writing about the run up to World War II, Herman Wouk did not use his historical fiction to try to get “inside the heads” of historical figures. Insofar as I can tell, he leaves the “thinking” to the fictional characters he had created and 100 percent controlled.
Both are by far the sounder approaches. For if there are no words, well, sorry, there are no words. To pretend we can “read minds” is a profound disservice to history. I wouldn’t want someone 70 years from now trying to read my mind. Would you?
Oh, yes, when you as an author are giving historical figures dialogue “to focus our attention sympathetically, in order to give us emotional access to the past,” you may know the line. But you’re playing with serious fire. Most readers and viewers probably will be unable to spot the difference between established fact and your storytelling that is, uh, “less shackled by documentary evidence.”