Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Wand In The Word

The Wand in the Word: Conversations With the Writers of Fantasy, compiled by Leonard S. Marcus

The Good: This is an awesome collection of interviews, thirteen in total. As I read it I kept scribbling notes to myself; and if I didn't hold back, this entry would be the longest blog post in history. I'm only using about a third of the ones I jotted down.

Each author speaks about their books, the writing process, and what shaped them as a writer. Also included are sample drafts to illustrate the creative process. As always, I found that one can never make generalizations or assumptions based on what a person writes. I also found it interesting how many were influenced by World War II.

Some of the author quotage:

Lloyd Alexander, on the use of magic: "Once you have a magical object, the magic has to be limited. If it isn't, you will end up having logical problems."
On fantasy: "Fantasy can show the truth about human relationships and moral dilemmas because it works on our emotions on a deeper, symbolic level than realistic fiction. It has the same emotional power as a dream."

Susan Cooper, pointing out something about The Dark Is Rising sequence that I did not realize until I reread it as an adult: "And so I think the [Dark is Rising] books try to say that extremism of any sort is bad and that at either end of the spectrum you are in danger of damaging people."

Brian Jacques on the best thing about being a writer: "I'll never have to drive another truck again."

Ursula K Le Guin, on how to treat a child's artistic expressions: "When I showed my writing to my parents, they made no fuss over them, did not highly praise them, but approved them fully -- so that I always felt not that I was somebody special but that I was trying to do something that was absolutely worth doing."

Garth Nix's advise on how to avoid doing a poor imitation of other authors: "Write the stories and books that you want to read. If you want to write fantasy, then read history and nonfiction and other genres of fiction, not only fantasy, or you'll just be a copyist of the greats who have gone before."

Tamora Pierce on the ultimate way to force herself to work: "If I don't do my page quota, I can't watch TV."

I think this is a great book for fantasy readers and for anyone who wants to be a writer. I'm not sure if it's a book that a teen will pull off the shelf themselves; it needs to be promoted by librarians and teachers and booksellers. Displays of fantasy books should include this; hand it to the kid who is writing fanfic; make sure your catalog entry includes every author interviewed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree, Liz. This book is a chockfull of interesting insights on the writing process. Leonard Cohen's AUTHOR TALK brings more of this to the table. I just referred to (and quoted) from both of these books in an electronic issue of Writing magazine that is all about revision . Cohen also had some fascinating insights on revision which he shared with our readers here.