Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors

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9780028640686: Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors

"Novel Ideas: Contemporary Writers Share the Creative Process" is a thought-provoking guide for aspiring novelists that uses the experiences of popular contemporary authors to illustrate the daily challenges of the creative process. Twenty-three in-depth interviews show first-hand how the process works-- and how it can take over an author's life. Interviews include A. Manette Ansay, Michael Chabon, Wally Lamb, Valerie Martin and Sena Jeter Naslund. Reading these interviews, the would-be novelist feels as if he or she is having a conversation with a mentor. The book also combines chapters on the creative process, novel structure, discipline, and drafting.

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Review:

After introductory chapters on the elements of fiction, the process of revision, and endurance writing come interviews with 23 contemporary novelists. These interviews, some of which originally appeared in a journal called Other Voices, address the differences between writing short stories and novels, the various ways in which a novel evolves, the internal and external obstacles for the novelist, and often--as in Valerie Martin on Mary Reilly and Sena Jeter Naslund on Ahab's Wife--the writing of a specific fictional work.

Throughout the book are discussions about how novels are born ("Somebody starts talking in my head," says Dorothy Allison) and how the real world feeds the fictional one. For many authors, the relationship between what happens in life and what happens on the page is a spiritual one. "I have a somewhat mystical belief that if you have a novel in mind," says Lee Smith, "everything you see and read and hear somehow contributes to it, if you're paying attention." "I've got my radar up," says Wally Lamb, "and I'm walking around in life looking for stuff that resonates, vibrates." Others are more predatory: "You go around like a vulture," says Patricia Henley, "stealing these things."

Though many of the authors interviewed here claim not to know at first whether they are embarking on a novel or a short story, Michael Chabon sees a strong distinction. "A short story is a commando operation." he says. "You have to get in quickly, set your charges, and get out, leaving the reader to be caught up in the blast." Not so the novel, which he likens to a full-out war, "always begun in the highest enthusiasm, with full confidence of right, and of the certainty of it all being over by Christmas. Two years later you're in the trenches and the mud, with defeat a real possibility, doubting everything, in particular the wisdom of the commanding general." --Jane Steinberg

About the Author:

Margaret Love Denman is the author of A Scrambling After Circumstance and a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writer's" pick. She is the director of the creative writing program at the University of New Hampshire, where she teaches fiction and novel writing.

Barbara Shoup is the author of Night Watch, Wish You Were Here and Stranded in Harmony. Her young adult novels were named to the American Literary Association's list of "Best Books for Young Adults." She is a Literary Fellow with the Butler University Writer's Studio and has taught novel writing to students and adults.

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Love Denman, Margaret, Shoup, Barbara
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