Readers have their say …

Two readers, Bonnie and Carol, share their perspectives on reading. Bonnie has worked in eight states and two foreign countries and from data entry to retail management. She’s 78, lives in the US and reads mostly mysteries.  Carol is 49 years old and has a PhD in genetics, She also lives in the US and tries “to always have reading material with me in case I’m stuck in a line.”

What is the power of fiction? Bonnie says “one good aspect is expanded vocabulary” while Carol says “fiction takes you to a different time and/or place real or imaginary.”

What kind of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of?  Bonnie prefers “a good police procedural, legal or political mystery.” She doesn’t care for “dystopian, paranormal or sci-fi.” In contrast, Carol like stories that “take place in the Middle Ages, ones that integrate the King Arthur legend” and also Scandinavian noir. She doesn’t like those set in the old West or traditional mysteries.

What aspects of an author’s writing make you feel like you’re ‘immersed in the novel’s world’ and/or ‘transported in time and place’.  Bonnie says she’s “too busy getting to the next page” to have thought about this.

Which books read in the past year or so stand out for you and why? The Burning by Shannon Esposito stood out for Bonnie. She was “totally immersed in this book!!” Carol lists two novels: “I recently finished Beartown by Fredrik Bachman. The storytelling and characters were so wonderful. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I loved the personal growth of the main character.”

How do you decide what books to buy? What influences your book purchases? Bonnie chooses based on “favorite authors or a fascinating storyline“. Carol is similar: “I usually buy books from authors I’ve read before. I can also be suckered in by the blurb on the back of the book.”

Is there anything about where you live or your particular background that influences your fiction choices? Bonnie’s reading is influenced by a father involved in politics, the jobs she had at two attorney’s offices, and by being married to a cop. Carol loves Scandinavia which draws her to Scandinavian noir.

Thanks to Bonnie and Carol for sharing their thoughts. I now have more books to add to my TBR pile.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – OR READING IN GENERAL –  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

“Mess, Mess, Mess, Mess, Art” – Geraldine Brooks on writing

Geraldine Brooks was one of the guests of honour at HNS 2017 and I can’t say enough of how compelling she is as a speaker – clear, great tempo, a wonderful blend of humour and seriousness, and carefully chosen words that reminded me of her novels. She had us spellbound.

I took notes, of course – I’m an inveterate note taker as I find the act helps me concentrate and then I can return for inspiration at a later date.

Geraldine Brooks began by telling us she looks for “the story you can’t make up”, the “implausible truth.” And each of her novels has found one of those moments. She had no idea that novels would be her life’s work. Instead, from a relatively young age she wanted to be a journalist. As it turned out, she was a journalist, hired first for the Sydney Morning Herald in the sports department of all things. Further education led eventually to the Wall Street Journal and reporting from troubled spots – Africa, the Balkans, and the Middle East – “where history was unfolding.”

Brooks’s first example of “implausible truth” was the seed for Year of Wonders. Out walking in England with her husband, she came across a sign for the small village of Eyam – Plague Village, the sign said – and her mind was off conceiving a story set in 1666 with a young woman’s battle to save fellow villagers as well as her own soul when the bubonic plague strikes.

“Novels,” Brooks said, “are about exposing the truth” of who we are and who we have been, particularly women. “Someone rises up from the grave and begins to talk to me.” Often these are lesser people like servants or slaves. And where does she go to “hear their voices?” According to Brooks, “sadly, you go to the courts” – the English Assizes, the Spanish Inquisition and others – where verbatim testimonies were recorded.

Reporting has informed her writing career. Geraldine Brooks said she hopes her novels “make the suffering I have witnessed count for something.”

As for the title of this post, Geraldine spoke of the writing process as “mess, mess, mess, mess, art.” In other words, the process is iteratively messy until art emerges.

On a personal note, I’ve read two of her five novels, People of the Book and The Secret Chord – both kept within reach of my desk as examples of truly wonderful writing. You can find my review of The Secret Chord here.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.