Monday, March 02, 2009

EAILF Kate Mosse

The next session I attended was Kate Mosse in conversation with Paul Blezard.

The discussion began with Kate saying you can’t be a writer unless you are a good reader and her reading began with her father reading to her at night. He read Jules Verne and R Haggard and many other old fashioned adventure stories. When she began to choose her own reading she moved to Agatha Christie and she remembers the first one being – Murder at the Vicarage.

Although Kate had always been scribbling away in her words she felt she didn’t become a writer until she was 43. She moved from music through theatre onto publishing and literary prizes.

Paul pointed out that Labyrinth was not her first novel but Kate says in a way it was as it was the book where she found her voice as a writer. She found her inspiration in the landscape and from that the characters grew. From this she found her sense of place and her sense of her voice. She found that her voice compelled her to write ‘old fashioned’ adventure stories with a clear moral landscape with a female heroine. That she was interested in the ways that men and women can be themselves and how they chose to be.

She said that it was key turning point that she realized “the person you are as a reader is not who you as a writer.”

She quoted Picasso when asked about inspiration and working practice –
When inspiration arrives I want it to find me working.
For her some days it was a case of sentence following sentence and paragraph following paragraph. This she described in the words of Margaret Atwood – labouring at the word mines.

She was asked how she worked in all her different roles – wife, mother, publisher and so on. She replied she ‘puts’ different hats on and the writing one was the grubbiest. She closes herself in and only lets her family near.

Her travelling as a writer has brought knew learning. It has taught her about herself as a writer because the question asked of her are different which reflect the place from which her work has been read.

She went onto say that anyone who has finished a book has achieved something. She then said she continually asks is this chapter good? Will my readers care about the character? She tries not to think about the finished product when writing first draft but focuses on character and page turning qualities.

She said it was important to ask yourself why are these readers giving you their time? If you don’t care then why would a reader carry on. Stories can only work if the characters carry it.

When beginning she has a sense of who the characters are and who they’ll turn out to be but if she rushes it – it will be too quick and they will turn to dust. She can’t just put her hand out and grab the character but must be pacient and let them come to her and they will reveal themselves. The character’s lives are their own.

She said that you don’t have to like your characters.

Once published the book exist out there for the writer and the readers. For the writer it stops there but for the reader it lives on. The readers have a more enduring relationship with the book and characters.

Paul asked her about the ‘time slip’ (Two separate time periods but both happen ‘live’) aspect of the Labyrinth and Sepulchre. She said she found both were real and didn’t work in flashback which felt to her if it showed less respect for one part of the story.

Her next book coming out is a novella –Hungry Ghost. This is not time slip but seen through the prism of 1928.

She went back to her inspiration – the landscape of South West France. She spoke of the frozen emotion that she sense. It’s bleakness. She could see stories in the images. For her place image, words and music work together.

She is working on another book based in SW France which will be a love story at its heart. She is a sprinter when she actually sits down to write. First she reads, researches, sketches then she writes straight through for it is an adventure story and if she doesn’t then it will lose pace. When she is writing she works eight hours a day seven days a week. The only interruptions are family – nothing else. During the first draft momentum is so important.

The work is never at the place you want it is to be. You need to be kind to yourself. For Labyrinth she worked through four drafts which took a total of seven years. Sepulchre needed three drafts and only four years. First she writes ¾ of the historic part of the story then she writes all the modern then finishes the historic. This is done partially to ensure that both heroines have different voices. The second drafting is when she puts the two stories together creating a work of 300,000 words. Then she can see the story properly and tighten it.

She was asked how she knew she was at the end of the story. Desperation strikes – it’s like being pregnant. You are so bored you look forward to the end and it gives the needed burst of energy. She said you mustn’t lose energy at this point. You have to respect the reader. The end must be as strong as the beginning.

No one is ever finished with a book – it just gets published.

Try to write every day. This way you have something work with. Think of like a musical instrument – practice, practice, practice.

She was asked how much research she did and she replied that she does much more than is ever needed. It is for her reassurance. She feels the reader will trust her more.

Does she see herself in her characters? Actually, no. Readers always assume that writers write themselves. There are tiny bits of her in all her characters but she feels she is in the landscape. If she writing herself all the time how would she write a man? She does get rid of bad bits into her villains.

Tomorrow Rachel Billington and Anne Fine with Liz Smith.


Liz Harris said...

I'm really enjoy your postings from the Dubai Festival, Liz. Peter James is a great favourite, anyway - a brilliant, edge-of-the seat writer - and I admire (and madly envy!) the success of Kate Mosse.

Many thanks for taking the time to fill us in with details from the various events.

Nell Dixon said...

Fascinating talk, thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for these postings - almost like being there, and that was a VERY interesting presentation.
Please accept a medal. :-)

Susie Vereker said...

Really interesting. Thanks for posting at such length.

HelenMHunt said...

That sounds fascinating. Glad you're getting so much out of it.

KAREN said...

Very interesting, I'm really enjoying reading these posts :o) Kate Mosse puts me to shame with her output!

Jan Jones said...

Good grief, Liz, you're fingers must be worn to the bone with all that note-taking!

Brilliant - thank you

cs harris said...

An interesting report. Have you read her? I listened to Labyrinth while driving back and forth to renovate our house after Katrina. I wouldn't have made it though otherwise, but she does seem to have found an audience.

JJ said...

Oh Liz, this post had such resonance for me - I hope you'll not mind if I quote some bits...

Yay to not being a writer until she's 43!

Loving the reports, Liz, keep them up.

Biddy said...

Ooo fascinating stuff. I liked her bit about you as a writer not being the same as you as a reader.

Also nice to see Mr Blezard is getting out and about. I used to work with him as Oneword...

liz fenwick said...

A Pleasure Liz :-)

It would be a shame to keep these notes to myself Nell!

Ray-Anne, I'm taking a bow now!

Tell you a secret Susie - the posts are me for as the help to cememnt it all in my mind!

Helen - I had the most wonderful time but will confess to being brain dead at the end!

Yes, karen, her output is truly amazing!

Jan - it wasn't the fingers - my brain was fried :-)

CS - I did read Labyrinth and suggled a bit I have to confess but DH read it and loved it. She did mention that she has as many male readers as female. I have the next one on my tbr pile.

JJ - I am so with you on the 43 bit! Pls quote away :-)

Biddy that comment did it for me too!

sexy said...