Good Reads - April, 2012
Anne Tyler: I figure we're almost all students of human behavior. That's how we get along in the world—by trying to make sense of the people we have to deal with.
When I'm working on character, I search my memory for telltale traits or gestures that I may have noticed in some random passerby. For instance, the other day I met a delightfully scatterbrained woman who was wearing a plastic bracelet the size of a giant bagel. When she tried to write a note, her bracelet was so thick that her fingers couldn't reach the pad of paper she was resting her wrist on. I loved that; I thought it said reams about her.
GR: Goodreads member Catherine writes, "I am interested in the seed that initiates a new book. For example, Alice Munro has said that the seed for her stories often is an image, say the image of a man with an ax coming over a hill. What tends to be the starting point for your novels? Can you talk about the seed for The Beginner's Goodbye?"
AT: I have known a book to start with an image, certainly, or an overheard remark. With The Beginner's Goodbye, the remark was one I heard only in my imagination. I heard a man's voice speaking the book's first sentence: "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead..." I found the sentence baffling and decided to ignore it. But then a while later, the same man announced that he had a few handicaps. And a while after that, he added that he also had a little speech problem. That's when I began to pay attention.
I know how insane it sounds to talk about characters speaking to me. I suppose it's really my subconscious letting thoughts surface that I didn't know I was thinking.