L.L. Barkat, author of The Novelist, agreed to answer some questions for me about her life and her writing experiences. Discover why she felt the need to write this book, how she develops her characters, and more.
Laura is searching for her place in the world of writing. Is this book based on your own writing experience?
Itís based more on the writers Iíve worked with over the years (Iím an editor as much as Iím a writer)óso many writers searching for their voices, so many afraid of whatís locked inside.
Thatís why the Mary Shelley parts of the story are important. I believe that as brave as Maryís monster story was (and it was brave), she personally knew what it was to fear the act of creation. Think about that. Her mother had died in an act of creation (birthing Mary) and Mary had grown up in a manís world. Ever wonder why her monster story makes the issue of creation so painful? I think Mary knew it firsthand. Many writers know that too. And they will need to struggle with it.
Did you intend for this book to teach others how to write fiction?
Yes. In fact, I have a few writer friends who can write fiction. They just donít know it yet. I wrote The Novelist with these writers in mind. I could see what their questions were, what consistently has been standing in the way. And I hoped to write a story that would gently and systematically remove the obstacles.
How long did it take you to complete this novella?
If I tell you, I will give away the inside joke about Edward P. Jones.
(Okay, it was three. The lesser reference, not the greater. Plus a few days.)
Which scene in the book is your favorite? Least favorite?
Is it bad to not have a least favorite? These are the kinds of scenes that donít make it in. Itís a great editing technique, actually. If something bores a writer or just doesnít work, you can bet it probably wonít thrill a reader either. Cut.
Favorite scene might be the one where Laura invites Geoffrey to tea, in her imagination. And reads Adrienne Rich. Gotta love Adrienne. And a good black tea with chocolate overtones.
How did you choose the names for your characters?
The book really plays with the literary world. Teases it. Teases us as writers and readers. Many of the names reflect that. For instance, it is a common criticism that writers write their first novel about themselves. So I chose the name Laura. Because itís mine.
But thatís too easy, isnít it? Is the book really about me? It better not be, or Iíve fallen prey to the first-novel-writers typical approach.
On the other hand, how fun to fall prey to it on some level. It both begs the question of the novel-writer as her own subject and creates more questions. The use of the poet James Cumminsí real name and some names of other actual friends seal the deal. (Yes, all agreed to play the game along with me and gave permission for the use of their names.)
How completely do you develop your characters before beginning to write?
And this is where Laura and I share a quality. She says she canít follow the writing formulas. She talks about Shakespeareís sonnets and notes that she canít ďwrite in his form.Ē Thatís me. I spend less time developing according to formula than being developed by my own writing along the way.