1. I went on my own
2. It was something that I was excited about and that I don’t normally do
3. It took 4 hours!
4. It took me a little bit out of my comfort zone (especially in that blasted one-way system around Cheltenham, with a rebellious SAV-NAV).
It’s true that when you go on an ‘artist’s date’, you notice much more than if you’re with a friend.
For example, I listened to Radio 2 on the way over and one of the songs that Len Goodman played, gave me the perfect ‘missing element’ for a story I’ve been mulling over for months now. Result! (and no, I’m not going to tell you anymore until – and if – it gets published!)
Then, when I got there, I took great delight in overhearing snippets of other people’s conversations:
“Hmm.. it’s gritty – very gritty.”
“She’s lost it. She can’t even remember her own name.”
“Who is it we’re seeing again? Oh, yes – Anita Shreve.”
And then, as we were waiting to be let into the room in the Town Hall, where the author was to be unveiled, I watched people: there was the man with the dancing eyebrows. Every time I caught his eye, he seemed to be giving me a ‘signal’ but then I realised that he just raised his eyebrows, involuntarily (and disconcertingly!) every few seconds; the girl who stood with her feet in third position and yawned, big and wide, without putting her hand over her mouth. And finally, the woman who was reading an Anita Shreve book as she waited.
I’ve only read one or two Anita Shreve novels, so I don’t claim to be her biggest fan but it’s always interesting to hear a successful writer interviewed and I wasn’t disappointed.
Here’s what I discovered:
• Anita Shreve has written 18 novels. One of them ‘Resistance‘ is based on her husband’s family and was made into a film starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond.
• She says it’s difficult to classify ‘an Anita Shreve novel’ because every one is different (different style, subject matter, structure) and she likes it that way. She likes to keep challenging herself and to keep it interesting.
• She’s always written ‘in secret’. As a child she wrote poems under the bed clothes, during her first marriage, when her (now ex!) husband told her she couldn’t do it because ‘you have to be very skilled and intelligent to write a novel’, she wrote without telling him, when he was out and even now, NO-ONE – not beta readers, nor friends, or her second (presumably more tolerant) husband – not even her editors – read the book before it’s finished.
• She writes in longhand, types up her work, prints it out and edits by hand. Everything ‘important’ is done by hand.
• She writes from about 8am – 1pm every day, then she stops and doesn’t think about the novel-in-progress again until she sits down the next morning to work on it. (How wonderful, to be able to ‘compartmentalise’ like that!)
The Festival is on until 11th October – another week to go – so if you’re in or around that area, it could be worth a visit!