Writers like to play around with the concept of evil. Think of some of the great antagonists: Sauron and Voldermort in their quests for total power and dominance; the criminal mastermind of Professor Moriarty; even the endless hunger and carnage of Benchley’s Jaws. Most definitions of the word evil state immorality and wickedness as the main concepts. But is it for the writer to deem if a character is wicked…or the reader?

After a few of my writer friends had a mini tirade regarding the shallowness of the Friday the 13th franchise, I set out to write a short story that played with the concept. A masked psychopath hacking apart teenagers at a campsite…clearly an evil character, right? By the end of the story, I wanted the reader to question to their original position on the motivations and morals of the killer, and through this, I saw the concept of evil becoming more flexible, like a lump of clay forming various shapes. Take something one considers evil, alter the perception just a little, and you have the possibility to create something entirely new, perhaps something good and noble.

Or not.

Daniel I. Russell
Entities of Modern Evil

I had to write

July 19, 2019

I spend a year researching my books before I start them, and they slowly take shape over the course of the year. With Monsters (The Monsters of Templeton) I had to write four completely different drafts — with different techniques, different modes of storytelling — before jettisoning the drafts and starting anew. But with Arcadia, I knew, pretty much from the beginning, what the overall arc of the story was going to be (paradise lost, semi-regained), and so I had the architecture of the book in my head before I began. The trouble was balancing everything in storytelling, which was breathtakingly difficult in that book.

Lauren Groff
Interview in Superstition issue 11

compulsiveness

July 14, 2019

I’ve often said “poetry saved my life” and I mean it. I was a driven man for most of my life, and still am to some extent, and part of that compulsiveness has been a kind of graphomania, where if I didn’t write on any particular day I would start to feel like a junkie withdrawing from his drug of choice, really really bad.

Michael Lally
Interview with Burt Kimmelman in 2011

literary categories

July 12, 2019

 

Ian McEwan on literary categories:

I think that the novel — and I think we should usually talk about ‘the novel’ rather than ‘the literary novel’ or ‘the science fiction novel’ — but the novel is a very good means of examining colossal social change, but also of [examining] the moral dilemmas that new technologies are going to make us confront. I think there could be a resurgence, a revitalization, of the form, in which — quite possibly — concepts and categories of ‘literary’ novels up against ‘science fiction’ novels will completely vanish, because we’ll need the technical grasp of technologies that the best science fiction yields to us, and we’ll need the traditional examinations of moral dilemmas that the literary novel has always prided itself upon. So I look forward to these categories just dissolving.

Ian McEwan
WIRED 4th April 2019

Character creation

July 11, 2019

The process by which I created my characters was instinctive, the sum of my whole experience of others and of my own potential self; and so it had always been. Sometimes I don’t actually meet a character I have created in a novel until some time after the novel has been written and published.

Muriel Spark
Loitering with Intent

act of writing

July 11, 2019

Writing is a body-intensive activity, totally. Absolutely, totally. The whole body is engaged in the act of writing, whether it’s on the computer, or with using a pen in the hands. The breath is involved in all activities.

Maggie O’ Sullivan
Close Listening conversation recorded on October 11, 2007

I take popular culture really seriously because I see in it a mirror that reflects our cultural lusts and longings and desires. Pop music in particular is really good at distilling desire, and I’m interested in the ways that those deep things in us as individuals — our fears and our desires — feed the global machine of racist, heteropatriarchal capitalism, and how it in turn feeds us. It’s a kind of loop. And the terms really are death: global death, species death, even our own deaths — like being hooked on the sugar juice of capital, whether it’s food, or credit. So, I find pop culture to be really, really serious, and that’s why it is so present in After We All Died, because it is a very important mirror.

Allison Cobb
Interview with Sue Landers 1st March 2017

where it could lead

July 9, 2019

I’ll have some idea or see something or an event will strike me in a certain way. I’ll string it along immediately and think of where it could lead and where it could go. I think of a story.

Daniel Handler
Lemony Snicket shares inspiration, advice for storytelling
The Stanford Daily 10th October 2013

criticism

July 6, 2019

In regard to literary review and literary criticism, Hans Magnus Enzensberger once noted, ‘it’s difficult to get excited about something that’s simply wasting away,’ before continuing, ‘Literature has again become what it was from the beginning: a minority affair.’ Enzensberger’s polemic addresses a long history of the institutionalisation of literature and its criticism via both the academy and the mass media, noting the situation, ‘Today for every poet there must be approximately sixty-six academics employed in researching and interpreting him.’ He perceives the blunting of interpretative acuity as critics and then reviewers cater to the majority’s appetite for an easily digestible and then excretable moveable feast, and then lauds the demise of said criticism whereby literature has been returned to its stalwart, proper and apparently small audience. Enzensberger’s polemic concludes with the understanding that the century or more of literature’s and literary criticism’s ascension in the mainstream is at an end and (circa 1986 when the essay was written) we might be the fortunate generation to see writers ‘wipe off the representative mask which they wore so long.’

Michael Brennan
Last words: Tranter and Rimbaud’s silence

Writing

July 6, 2019

…one ought to write without making corrections, not necessarily at full tilt, no, but at one’s own pace and in accordance with what one is experiencing at the time; one ought to eject what one writes, manhandle it almost, yes, treat it roughly, not try to trim profusion but let it be part of the whole, and not tone down anything either, whether its speed or its slowness, just leave everything as it is when it appears.

Marguerite Duras
Emily L
Trans. Barbara Bray