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42 days = 1 book

The subject line is not about my writing, unfortunately, but about that of American-but-Anglophile mystery writer Elizabeth George. If you're not familiar with it already, NPR has a wonderful brief but daily program called The Writer's Almanac, in which Garrison Keillor features writers (poets as well as prose writers) on their birthdays. Today's entry describes how Elizabeth George began writing fiction after she and her husband acquired their first computer. Her first two mystery novels were rejected, albeit with some kind words, but having 42 days of free time, she sat down and wrote the first draft of her first published work, A Great Deliverance.

I always liked Elizabeth George's work (I am not comfortable only using her last name because I know guys named George, and it just sounds wrong). And I find it interesting that someone born and raised in Mountain View, CA can write such authentically English novels (the detective is an Earl) that the BBC has optioned all her books. I suspect if she were British, like P.D. James, she would be dame-ed (as opposed to knighted) by now.

I particularly enjoyed this quote from her, describing her thought processes once the new computer was delivered:

"I was faced with the simplest life question I've ever had to answer. I asked myself whether, on my deathbed, I wanted to sigh and say, 'I could have written a novel' or 'I wrote a novel.' Believe me, the answer was simplicity itself."

What I liked most was, she didn't say "I could have published a novel" but rather "I could have written a novel." I find it interesting that after all her success, she still articulated the challenge as the writing and not the selling.

Although for me, so far the challenge part has been the other way around!




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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
lunalila
Feb. 26th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
Haven't really read anything from her, but your rewiev for sure makes me want to pick at least one of her books.
I'd try to add it to my incredibly growing list of books I want to read.
Thanks!
karen_w_newton
Feb. 26th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
That particular one (A Great Deliverance) is a very powerful story. I can see why it worked to break through. If you're an Anglophile like me, you might also like Martha Grimes, another American with an Earl in her mysteries, although not as the detective. They're actually on the humorous side, a lot of the time. The book title are all odd names for pubs. The first one is "The Man With a Load of Mischief."

I wonder if any British authors write American mysteries set in LA or NY or something?
mtlawson
Feb. 26th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
I like that quote a lot.

I don't suppose you read historical fiction, Karen? I was recommended the Arianna Franklin books and found them really good.
mtlawson
Feb. 26th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, and nice to see another fan of The Writer's Almanac. That and Stardate are two of my favorite short clips.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 27th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I was tickled to find the website because sometimes I would come downstairs and it would be halfway over. I have to resist reading ahead, though!
mtlawson
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
What kills me about Stardate is that the podcast was always a day late; it would be nice if it was distributed the same day, so I could actually use the data for a change.

I just like Garrison's voice; yeah, he's got a face for radio, but his voice is great.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
I got to see him when A Prairie Home Companion was recorded live at Wolf Trap Farm Park. It was a wonderful evening!
mtlawson
Feb. 27th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
We saw him twice; once, when he did a "mini-PHC" with the Cincinnati Symphony during the summer several years ago, and in 2007 when he returned to Music Hall. He's a great entertainer. It was kind of funny that my wife and I were two of the younger people in the audience, but that was okay. Music Hall sits 3500, and the place was practically SRO.

peadarog
Feb. 26th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
+1 on the quote.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 27th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
I do sometimes read historical fiction. I love history but I find it easier to learn about the past through fiction. Historian aren't allowed to guess, so there is no dialog that wasn't recorded. I loved MM Kaye's SHADOW OF THE MOON, and THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR by Sharon Kay Penman, for example The first is set in British India and the second is a more sympathetic portrait of Richard III than you will ever see in a work by that well known Tudor apologist W. Shakespeare.

I will have to check out Franklin's work, too. Thanks for the tip.
mtlawson
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series is set in Henry II's England, and is a kind of CSI meets Medieval times.
karen_w_newton
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:47 pm (UTC)
I checked Amazon. The reviews called her to a newer version of Brother Cadfael, by Ellis Peters. I don't know if it's the publisher or Amazon I should be peeved at, but the first book in her series is $6 in paperback and $9.57 on Kindle. Annoying as heck! The book is 3 or 4 years old! I will watch for it to go down, but sheesh.
mtlawson
Feb. 27th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
Oh man, that's nuts. Sorry about that.
tracy_d74
Feb. 27th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
I love the quote!

Although I have not dipped my toe into the tumultuous agent/publisher waters just yet, I suspect the hardest part will always be the writing. I find my internal critique is a loudmouth demon I can't keep quite. External critiques? I can just walk away or ignore them once I know I have done my best. :)
karen_w_newton
Feb. 27th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
Well, writing is hard, but at least it's fun. Querying agents and publishers is agony.
tracy_d74
Feb. 28th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC)
true, it is fun! :)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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