Sunday, May 30, 2010

Questions that authors are never asked

As the Hay festival kicks off, with world-class authors being interviewed on stage all week, we invited writers to follow the example of Nadine Gordimer – one of the star billings this year – and ask themselves questions journalists never ask . . .
The Guardian, Saturday 29 May 2010

William Boyd

 Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Extremely. I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to get the names "right" – even for the most minor walk-on characters. If you christen a character correctly, he or she, I believe, already starts to live on the page. You don't have to go the whole Dickensian-Vonneguttian hog, but a little unusualness about the right name works wonders. Characters called perfectly nice and normal names like "Martin Foster" or "Sally Thomas" will always struggle a bit to claim your attention.

What about the titles of your novels?
I couldn't publish a novel if I wasn't happy about the title. The title is a kind of benediction on the whole enterprise. To send a book out into the world with a title I wasn't happy with seems inconceivable to me. Sometimes the right title comes almost immediately; sometimes you're still sweating at it as the 11th hour comes and goes. It's a vitally important omen – for me, the novelist. I don't think it matters particularly to the reader.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Many, I'm sure. In my case I think being a novelist prevented me from ever learning to drive – natural indolence coupled with an absence of need. I also have a sneaking suspicion that eczema is the novelist's disease – or some kind of similar skin problem. Any suggestions, Dr Freud? Also there is the career-long advantage/disadvantage that you don't have to worry about waking up with a hangover.

Read what 14 other prominent authors have to say at The Guardian online.

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