I'm bowing out of Facebook and inviting readers to rediscover this website, so I'll be posting here more frequently from now on. My presence on social media and here was intended to bring people closer to my writing. And my principle project at the moment is the opera I've written with Nicholas Gentile, the first ever to be created specifically for the screen. So from now on the main topics on this blog will be Émilie du Chatelet, the film project Émilie & Voltaire, and my own writing, in that order.
After decades devoted to writing, I now recognise that Émilie & Voltaire brings to fruition something that I was searching for in 2011. Back then I conducted a secret interview with myself. Looking at it again today for the very first time, I realise that something I yearned for then has come into being, and it turns out not to be a novel but an opera libretto! Thanks to Nicholas and our film team, it will soon go out into the world. Here is my self-interrogation from 12 years ago, unedited.
Why do I write?
Because I’ve always liked to read stories and wanted to work that magic, of keeping someone enthralled when they’re curled up with a book. This is an old dream of mine. For the last two decades it’s been a drive, not very examined.
If it’s for a definable purpose, am I achieving that purpose?
Possibly there’s a purpose there, as I grow older, of telling something about the world of human beings, what they’ve done and what moves them. I don’t write from any psychology or sociology of history, though, and I don’t see any point in a catalogue of facts. Some readers looking for romance in my books find too many facts; others find the stories rich and dramatic. I don’t think I’ll ever know whether the purpose is being achieved. I should spend some time thinking about whether I have one, however.
Am I doing it more for me or for others?
The drive is deep so I guess it’s primarily for me. About me, though? Don’t think so.
Is it meant to have an effect on others’ lives?
I do want the reader to share my fascination with the events I touch on, so it’s partially an adventurous history lesson. And I want the characters to become part of the reader’s life for a while, to be believed in as complex creatures. Capable of surprising and disappointing. Capable of inspiration. The books are full of moral choices.
What sort of effect does it have now?
Varied. Some people cry when they read the books, usually in odd places. Fiona Henderson, my first publisher, cried when the Master died in La Créole. Nerrilee Weir, rights manager, dreamed of Jules from Rebel. The history grabs some people. Do my books make people think or change their view of the world? I’ve no idea.
What am I trying to express?
That we love. That as a species we keep love out of most of our dealings with others. That we can’t concentrate long enough on examining what we do. That our mistakes are monumental. That in our hearts we know what’s wrong.
Is my writing honest?
It uses story constructs hallowed by literary practice. If it were totally honest, perhaps it would be less planned, stranger. But maybe less powerful?
Does it reflect my deepest preoccupations?
Who knows? Deep preoccupations tend to stay down there, inside us, rarely recognised. So there’s no real answer to that question.
Is there any point in going on?
In the sense that writing is a discovery, yes.
If there is, what kind of writing do I want to do?
I want people to sit up and take notice of it. Why? I’m getting older and I still haven’t written a book that reaches out and moves a lot of people powerfully. I have a desire to do that. But until I find out why I have that desire, I’ll never write the book. I know it’s not basically a selfish impulse, but beyond that I’m not sure where it comes from or where it’s going.
Is writing my greatest talent, supposing I have any?
Yeah, for what it’s worth. Not much. Good enough perhaps if given free rein.
Would I achieve the (supposed) purpose better by another means?
No, not that I know of.
Is it a search for something?
Looks like it.