The View From Here Interview:
Mari Strachan has been immersed in books all her life. She has worked as a librarian in academic, school, public, private and prison libraries. She has also been a book reviewer, researcher, translator, copy writer and web editor. She and her husband live part-time on a tiny smallholding in the hills of Ceredigion, West Wales, and part-time on a narrowboat on the Grand Union Canal in London.
Mari was named as one of Waterstones New Voices for 09 earlier this year.
For Part 1 of this interview click here.
Can you give us some tips on writing, what works for you?
Writers work in quite different ways, but I find that I have to write the first draft straight through without going back to re-write and shape the writing. That way I have something to work on when I come to what is, for me, the best part of writing - the shaping of that first draft into something as closely resembling the book I have in my head as I can possibly make it. When I’m actually writing as opposed to drafting I try to use all the senses to bring the writing alive, and use strong verbs, and keep adjectives and adverbs for when they really make a difference. Words are a writer’s power tools and it’s crucial to be able to use them effectively I’d recommend Fairfax and Moat’s book The Way to Write to anyone who writes - it’s about how to use words, rather than how to plot or create characters. And of course, anyone who wants to write should read, read, read!
Do you have a set place to work? And do you work in quiet or do you have to have a background er … hum … as it were?
We travel about quite a bit with my husband’s work so it doesn’t do to get too precious about where I write. When I’m at home I tend to do the longhand stuff at the kitchen table, because my computer lives in a big cupboard on the landing where there is no desk space. I do first draft in longhand, type it up on the computer, then do all the editing and re-writing on the printouts and so on ad infinitum - it’s a very messy business - and I can work on printouts anywhere I go, and then put it all into the computer when I’m home again. I prefer quiet but find that sitting in a coffee shop with a lot of noise around is almost the same! I find it difficult to work if the noise is anything other than that kind of general hum. Music or chat on the radio, for instance, is just too distracting.
Where does the notion come from that the Earth has a song, and why B Flat?
At the turn of the century I worked for a big millennium project that was all about sustainable development. One of the galleries was a wonderful art installation where moving images, accompanied by sound and music, were projected onto huge glass henges to show the beauty of life on Earth and the destruction we wreak on it. The centrepiece of this installation was a ‘bottomless’ black pool over which the Earth was suspended - if a visitor held out her arm to touch the planet a laser beam would be broken which would cause the gallery to be filled with a low hum in B Flat - the sound the Earth makes in space, except that out there the hum is far too deep for the human ear to hear it. All planets emit a sound, apparently, which scientists are somehow able to pick up. The project unfortunately ran out of money before the centrepiece could be completed and I never did hear the song of the Earth!! But, it was there at the back of my mind and presented itself (eventually) as the title I was searching for and a kind of a metaphor for the whole book.
Can you tell us something about your next book and how that is going?
My next book is set just after the Great War - I’m interested in how people cope in times of great change - and I’ve done quite a bit of research and preparatory work but I’m nowhere near where I should be in the writing of it! Panic!
Has it felt different approaching the second book after the publication of your first book - is there an increased confidence or are you nervous that you can replicate the success of the first?
When I’m thinking about my next book, researching for it, working on the characters, finding the right voice for my main character and so on, I don’t think about anything else. I know I can write a novel from start to finish now, and I don’t see any reason why I can’t do it again (not famous last words, I hope!). I guess that’s a kind of confidence that comes with publication. The panic is because I’m due to hand this next book to the publishers in January 2010 and I’ll need to burn the oil and the candle at both ends to do that!
Do you dream of flying?
I used to, and when I was very young I was convinced, like Gwenni, that I had actually flown not just dreamt it. I rarely remember my dreams nowadays, so perhaps I still do fly in them - I certainly wake up very tired some mornings, and my sister, who is interested in these things, tells me it is a sign that I have been journeying in my sleep!
Thank you all for your interest in The Earth Hums in B Flat.
Visit Mari's web site here.
Photo Credit ( Modified ) : Adam Ifans