Went to see Kate Atkinson as part of the Bath Literary Festival last night. She is definitely one of my favourite authors, I think I wrote a post last summer about how When Will There Be Good News? is the only book which has ever made me burst into tears with shock (and if you've read it, I'm sure you know the bit I mean). Birdsong and a couple of other books have seen tears running down my cheeks whilst reading but this was the most intensely anguished a book has ever made me feel. Now that's a sign of a bloody powerful writer, I reckon.
Anyway, she was just so interesting and inspiring last night. So funny and quick-witted and articulate, I really warmed to her, especially as she said when writing a novel she's always convinced it's rubbish. (I can relate to that.) And I was surprised that she's not a plotter kind of author - especially when you think how tightly wound her plot threads are. She says she knows her starting point, and where she wants to end up and the fun part is the middle where you find out how it all happens. (I can relate to that too, although I don't know if I could ever describe the writing as 'fun'. Mind you she did also say that she finds writing very tedious!) The interviewer asked if her characters 'lived' in her head, whether she heard their voices speaking to her and, after a perfectly timed comedy pause, she replied, "Oh, no. Because hearing voices in your head... well, that's called madness, I think, isn't it?"
She read a passage from When Will There Be Good News? - it's the chapter where Reggie and Ms MacDonald are introduced - and at first everyone in the audience was laughing away at all the funny bits. But then, by the end of this piece, she got to the bit about Reggie's mum dying and my God, the room just turned completely pin-drop silent. I think that's amazing, the way she can flip from comedy to pathos so smoothly.
Feeling guilty as I have to work today to catch up on deadlines but am so inspired by last night, I'm going to make sure every word I write is brilliant. Well, here's hoping anyway...
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