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INTERVIEW: Geraldine Brooks

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Geraldine Brooks is one of my absolute favourite writers and so I am absolutely delighted that she agreed to an interview with me. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the novels Year of Wonders, March, People of the Book, and the non-fiction books Nine Parts of Desire, and Foreign Correspondence. Born in Australia, she lives in Martha’s Vineyard, in the US.

 

Are you a daydreamer too? 
When I was a child I lived in daydreams.  These days my work is a kind of extended reverie so outside of that, I find I'm attracted to tactile, in the moment things, like horse riding and gardening where your focus tends to be very much on what you are doing now, and now, and now...
 
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A journalist, yes, from the time I was eight years old.  The ambition to be a novelist came on me in midlife, unexpectedly.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book? 

For Caleb's Crossing, it was a notation on a map, marking the birthplace of the first Native American graduate of Harvard, in 1665.  I was immediately engaged--how had this come about?

 

How extensively do you plan your novels? 
Not at all, really.  I have the shards of historical fact, in as much as they are known.  But I proceed from there instinctively, feeling my way day by day.
 
Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration? 
I wish my dreams were interesting enough.  Sadly, they're not. Recently I hit a nadir of banality.  I dreamed I was reading the paper.

Where do you write, and when? 
I have a study, but these days I find I move around a lot, especially if no one else is home.  If the weather's nice, I sit in a big old cane chair under the apple tree and write.  If it's cold and grim outside, I sit at the kitchen table with a wood fire burning.   I work when the kids are at school.  Simple as that.

What is your favourite part of writing? 
The surprise as you uncover the story.  The freedom--the fact that it is entirely up to you, no excuses, but no answering the bell, either.
 
What do you do when you get blocked? 
I remind myself that there's no hairdressers' block, or panel beaters' block, or radiologists' block, and I just get on with it.
 
How do you keep your well of inspiration full? 
That thankfully hasn't been a problem.  There are so many good stories in the world.  People are infinitely interesting.
 

Who are ten of your favourite writers? 
Tim Winton, Jane Austen, Marilynne Robinson, Eva (Sallis) Hornung, Helen Garner, Andre Makine, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Yeats, Shakespeare, Mary Renault

 
What do you consider to be good writing?
The kind you feel on your skin.
 
What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too? 
Take some good books, put them in your backpack and go, as far as you can afford to.  Get a job in an unfamiliar place.   If it doesn't work out, quit and get another one. Learn another language.  Write something every day.  You have to write badly before you write well, so don't be discouraged.
 
What are you working on now?  
A novel set in Iron Age Israel.

Geraldine Brooks website

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Interview with Susan Vreeland

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