By Robin Kaye
I spent this weekend at a writer’s conference, which is one of my very favorite things to do. I find being in the company of other writers to be invigorating. We all suffer from the same mental problem – we have characters talking to us whether we wish them to or not. Now, to the normal people, this might sound as if we all need psychological help. I think that might be true to some extent. However, I choose to think of myself as a highly functioning insane person. Still, going to writer’s conferences confirms that I’m not alone in my insanity.
I recently read a book that I loved. It spoke to me. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is brilliant. The writing is beautiful, but the thing I loved most about it was that the heroine, Carrie, was a writer. I felt as if Susanna was writing about me--a much more successful version of me of course, a version who can afford to live and write in the place she’s writing about which is a dream of mine. Carrie is writing a historical novel about the Jacobite uprising in 1708. Carrie thinks the novel would take place mostly in France so she goes there, rents a place to live and begins writing the book. But nothing comes to her. Her characters aren’t speaking to her, even though she is writing and researching and doing all the right things. To me, it seemed as if she was just going through the motions--writing, but not feeling it. There is nothing more frustrating than to be stuck and not know how to make your characters talk to you. It’s like trying to find a light switch in a pitch-black room. You just feel your way around blindly with your hands out in front of you looking for a switch or a lamp while bumping into furniture and getting bruised and battered before you finally find the light.
I remember telling my husband all about The Winter Sea, saying it was the first book about a writer that was written by someone who knew writers. Which is weird, because all authors are writers but I hadn’t felt that connection before. I wondered why that was.
So I’m wondering, to all you writers out there, have you ever read a book about a writer you identified with? And when you get stuck and you’re going through the motions but your characters aren’t speaking to you, what do you do to turn on the light? And to those of you who are not writers, to all of you doctors, lawyers, teachers, publicists, astrophysicists, whatever your occupation, have you read books that you identified with? Have you found a book in which the writer totally got it?