Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Writers who leave their wives lost for words
Ian Rankin's wife has confirmed that at times novelists are more interested
in their creations than the people living with them
Writer's blockade: Ian Rankin's
family stay out of his way when he is at work on his novelsPhoto: Chris
By Philip Hensher
The Telegraph - 01 Nov 2012
The novelist Ian Rankin’s wife, talking in a television documentary, has
revealed some of the working habits of the busy professional novelist, and some
of us will have recognised the phenomena she describes. Some of our spouses,
too, because these disasters and pieces of bad and neglectful behaviour affect
our families indirectly.
Mrs Rankin said, very perceptively, that there is a danger of writer’s block
hitting Rankin once he has used up all his initial ideas and vision, prepared
before the book was started. She says this happens, almost always, on page 65.
That’s absolutely true: the map and ideas and scribbled notions, prepared before
anything starts, initially look like enough to get you through to the end, or to
the halfway stage. And then you’ve run through your stock of imaginative capital
like a Lottery winner on a drunken spree, and the blank page stares at you.
Still more recognisable is what Mrs Rankin said about the 52-year-old
novelist, when in full spate – “he’s like a teenage student”. She knows, since
Rankin writes a novel every year, what the rhythm is, and when there is no point
talking to him. “The role of his family, chiefly, during this period, is trying
to get out from under his feet… it’s sort of staying out of his way while he
gets on with it.”
Every novelist and every member of a novelist’s family will recognise this
period. The only difference, perhaps, is between the sort of writer who is able
to pack his family off, and the sort that devotes energy to secreting his work
away from them. Jane Austen used to keep the door of the room where she worked
unoiled, so as to be able to conceal her work. Others, like Dickens, would
retreat to a study where he could not be disturbed. What is apparent is that,
for almost every novelist, the relationship between them and their creation is,
for the time being, much more important than the relationship with real people.