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Frequent Contributor
cookie
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎12-31-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Have a lovely weekend Tracy - hope it's relaxing.
Philippa's message board:
http://www.philippagregory.com/phpbb2/index.php
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jardine
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Registered: ‎04-26-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

I hope you're having a good time in Dorset ;-)
I was wondering : what is your favourite place in London and in England, more generally?
I lived in England (Essex) 10 years ago as part of my studies and still consider it as my second country.
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ShannonF
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Registered: ‎05-05-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Tracy,

Point-of-view question.

Omniscient perspectives boggle my mind as I primarily write short stories and try to maintain a clear line between the one or two limited points-of-view that my story includes. As I recall, much of your previous writing did the same (first-person narration under a name heading). Before I got my MFA, I was an accountant, so I like to have rules more than any writer should, but when someone points out that your limited-perspective narrator can't see the expression on her own face unless she's looking in a mirror, then rules get created.

Can you discuss why you chose an omniscient perspective for Burning Bright? Did you form any rules for when you would allow the narrative focus to shift (at paragraph breaks or whenever) or how often in a chapter or whether it could go from one character to another then back to the original? Briefly I thought the narratives were changing at the chapters, but then I noticed changes within.

Even though the narration allows the reader into most of the characters' minds, as far as I have read, I don't believe I've been in William Blake's head and doubt I will be. Was that conscious since Blake was your focal point as a historical figure? But Astley was real and we know his thoughts.

Is whatever you're working on now (assuming you have something new brewing) continuing in this mode of narration? Do you prefer it to the name headings and first person that you've previously used? How difficult did you find it to transition to this new method?

Sorry I'm going on and on about this, but the idea of writing an omniscient narrative baffles me. The last novel I read was Lord of the Flies and the movement of that narration perplexed me as well.

Totally unrelated question: how do you pronounce your name as I have only ever read it? In a French way: sh&-'val-"yA or is it "she-v&-'lir.

I've really enjoyed all of your work. Thank you.

Shannon

P.S. I'm completely envious of your opportunity to live in England. Did you manage that before you got married? I did some short-term studies there, then spent a lot of time in Herefordshire. It's beautiful. I miss the rolling hills and footpaths everywhere!
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ShannonF
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier



TracyC wrote:
if I don't get to everything, I'll answer it Tuesday - though I know that's after the official end.




Not that I plan to torture you for the rest of the month with lengthy questions, but I thought the moderator's introduction said the discussion ran for all of May.

Very nice of you to be so willing to answer so many questions, though.

Thanks,
Shannon
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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For Liz: Tracy and Vanora

I was tempted by the very attractive cover of Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman, but I went with Burning Bright instead. PoaUW has been compared to Tracy's (and Philippa Gregory's) novels: what do you think?


LizzieAnn wrote:
I'm planning on starting Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman now.
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LizzieAnn
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Tracy and Vanora

Well, I've only just begun - in the middle of the first chapter'; but, PoaUW does have the same feeling as both Tracy's and Philippa's so far. I could say that it's because of historical fiction angle, but that wouldn't be true. I've read Jean Plaidy, and she has a different feel. But then again, I just finished Plaidy's Murder Most Royal, and it was originally written in 1949. It's fun to run into Thomas More again in PoaUW!



pmath wrote:
I was tempted by the very attractive cover of Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman, but I went with Burning Bright instead. PoaUW has been compared to Tracy's (and Philippa Gregory's) novels: what do you think?


LizzieAnn wrote:
I'm planning on starting Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman now.



Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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adadmd
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Registered: ‎05-06-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Do you have any Irish in your ancestry? When I saw your picture, I felt like I was looking in the mirror! That's a first for me.
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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: For Liz: Tracy and Vanora

I do not think there is any where near as much historical research and depth in Tracy Chevalier's novels as in Phillipa Gregory's.




pmath wrote:
I was tempted by the very attractive cover of Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman, but I went with Burning Bright instead. PoaUW has been compared to Tracy's (and Philippa Gregory's) novels: what do you think?


LizzieAnn wrote:
I'm planning on starting Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman now.



Frequent Contributor
Posts: 1,101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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More on Tracy and Vanora

I found the first three chapters of PoaUW at BBC's website. It seems more romantic than Tracy's novels: I think I made the right choice, since I prefer unsentimental fiction, like Jane Austen's!


LizzieAnn wrote:
Well, I've only just begun - in the middle of the first chapter'; but, PoaUW does have the same feeling as both Tracy's and Philippa's so far.

pmath wrote:
I was tempted by the very attractive cover of Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman, but I went with Burning Bright instead. PoaUW has been compared to Tracy's (and Philippa Gregory's) novels: what do you think?


LizzieAnn wrote:
I'm planning on starting Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Vanora Bennett's Portrait of an Unknown Woman now.
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier



jardine wrote:
I hope you're having a good time in Dorset ;-)
I was wondering : what is your favourite place in London and in England, more generally?
I lived in England (Essex) 10 years ago as part of my studies and still consider it as my second country.




My favourite place in London is Hampstead Heath - which is lucky as I live near it. My favourite area in England is Dorset, with a close second the Yorkshire Dales, and third Hadrian's Wall, which my husband and son and I walked along one summer. It was glorious up there.
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier



ShannonF wrote:
Tracy,

Point-of-view question.

Omniscient perspectives boggle my mind as I primarily write short stories and try to maintain a clear line between the one or two limited points-of-view that my story includes. As I recall, much of your previous writing did the same (first-person narration under a name heading). Before I got my MFA, I was an accountant, so I like to have rules more than any writer should, but when someone points out that your limited-perspective narrator can't see the expression on her own face unless she's looking in a mirror, then rules get created.

Can you discuss why you chose an omniscient perspective for Burning Bright? Did you form any rules for when you would allow the narrative focus to shift (at paragraph breaks or whenever) or how often in a chapter or whether it could go from one character to another then back to the original? Briefly I thought the narratives were changing at the chapters, but then I noticed changes within.

Even though the narration allows the reader into most of the characters' minds, as far as I have read, I don't believe I've been in William Blake's head and doubt I will be. Was that conscious since Blake was your focal point as a historical figure? But Astley was real and we know his thoughts.

Is whatever you're working on now (assuming you have something new brewing) continuing in this mode of narration? Do you prefer it to the name headings and first person that you've previously used? How difficult did you find it to transition to this new method?

Sorry I'm going on and on about this, but the idea of writing an omniscient narrative baffles me. The last novel I read was Lord of the Flies and the movement of that narration perplexed me as well.

Totally unrelated question: how do you pronounce your name as I have only ever read it? In a French way: sh&-'val-"yA or is it "she-v&-'lir.

I've really enjoyed all of your work. Thank you.

Shannon



Hi Shannon,

This is a complicated issue. I'm not surprised you're confused - I think doing third-person omniscient narration is one of the hardest things a writer can do. Indeed, that is why I chose to use it this time around with Burning Bright. You're right that I used first person with my other novels, apart from the historical section in The Virgin Blue. I felt this time that I wanted to "grow up" as a writer, and needed to crack using third-person. So I did it, but without a lot of set rules such as you have suggested. Perhaps I should have had rules about, say, when to switch narrative focus (at end of sections, end of paragraphs or some such), but instead I felt my way.

The one rule I did have was that I would never look over Blake's shoulder - I wanted to keep him distant. He affects all the other characters, but I didn't want to get inside his head - probably because his head is so very impossible to get inside!

As for my next book, I am at this moment struggling with how I will tell it. I have started it using first-person again, but I don't know if that will continue or if I will switch over. I have to get a better sense of the tone and issues of the book before I'll know for sure. And it's not uncommon to switch midway or after a draft. My first draft of Falling Angels was almost entirely in third person, but it didn't work, so I rewrote it in first person.
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

By the way, everyone, I seem to have misunderstood how long I am answering questions on this site for. I thought it was 30 April - 7 May, which is why in an email above I refer to the "official" ending of the discussion as being Monday. I've since discovered it goes on till the end of May. That's fine, and I can stick around till then...
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 1,101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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History v. Fiction in Historical Fiction

I prefer more fiction than history in historical fiction: I think the blend in Tracy's novels appeals to more readers, not just fans of historical fiction!


Choisya wrote:
I do not think there is any where near as much historical research and depth in Tracy Chevalier's novels as in Phillipa Gregory's.
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 1,101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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For Tracy: More on Colin Firth and Jane Austen

Tracy, he certainly seems like a very nice person, from the interviews I've seen on television. It just struck me that he's another link between Jane Austen and yourself, but I think he looks more like a Johannes Vermeer than a Mr Darcy!


TracyC wrote:
He was also great to meet in person! :smileywink: I was lucky enough to go on set twice and that was a lot of fun.

pmath wrote:
Colin Firth was the perfect choice for the rôle of Johannes Vermeer, wasn't he?


dianearbus wrote:
...the day after I finished reading Girl With a Pearl Earring, I went to see the movie and it was one of the very few times where the image on the screen was so close to what I saw in my head while I was reading it. What did you think of the film?
Frequent Contributor
LizzieAnn
Posts: 2,344
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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For Pmath

I'm up to the sixth chapter of PoaUW. Although there's the possibility of romance, it doesn't seem romantic to me. What's interesting is the vision of Thomas More and his family. More himself comes across enigmatic and perhaps a little dark.



pmath wrote:
I found the first three chapters of PoaUW at BBC's website. It seems more romantic than Tracy's novels: I think I made the right choice, since I prefer unsentimental fiction, like Jane Austen's!

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 1,101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: For Pmath

Thanks for keeping me posted, Liz: I'll give it another try, if you recommend it, next month!


LizzieAnn wrote:
I'm up to the sixth chapter of PoaUW. Although there's the possibility of romance, it doesn't seem romantic to me. What's interesting is the vision of Thomas More and his family. More himself comes across enigmatic and perhaps a little dark.

pmath wrote:
I found the first three chapters of PoaUW at BBC's website. It seems more romantic than Tracy's novels: I think I made the right choice, since I prefer unsentimental fiction, like Jane Austen's!
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TinaSChang
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

I am also a short fiction writer and found the omniscient perspective to be a bit challenging to follow. Nevertheless there are clear advantages to this particular tale to seeing things from multiple perspectives. As individual characters paint the world in black and white, constructing opposites, and one of the points of this tale was to reveal the blend in between. That can be seen well when the perspectives are blended together. I felt this multiperspective culminated in the fog scene with grey blending towards white and then having black thrown down upon it. The jarring perspectives created more tension.
Tina S. Chang
Science and Math Fiction

http://profiles.yahoo.com/tinaschangsf

tinaschangsf@yahoo.com
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TinaSChang
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

As a Blake fan I felt that his introduction to the reader was very cleverly executed.

It seemed that the story, the narrative structure, was designed around introducing Blake to the audience. Is this true? Did you pre plan that we would first meet Blake as a revolutionary, then as a sexual free spirit, and so on, slowly bringing in the key aspects of his personality and his various poems until handing the reader the gift of the "Songs of Experience" at the end? Was this planned even before the story of Gem and Maggie and Massie and the others?

Do you create a map of narrative structure to build a novel before you write it?
Tina S. Chang
Science and Math Fiction

http://profiles.yahoo.com/tinaschangsf

tinaschangsf@yahoo.com
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Hi Tina,

I wish I could say I had the book all planned out, as it sounds so good when you describe it that way! But I didn't plan it that carefully. I knew that I wanted Blake to display his various personality traits and interests, but I didn't have a list and check them off. Writers work pretty instinctively, and I often wrote scenes that just felt right, only understanding why they were there afterwards. For instance, I have Jem and Maggie follow Blake during his mother's funeral procession across London. The journey starts out in the familiar territory of Lambeth, and it's sunny and light and easy. Then they go into Soho and the streets get smaller and darker and the sun goes away, and the further into old London they go, the darker and rainier it gets, and finally they lose their way. After I finished writing the book I began to understand that that scene is a kind of physical manifestation of the journey from innocence to experience. But I only understood that retrospectively.

In fact, I think if you plan too much ahead of time, it shows, and the book becomes self-conscious and dull. On the other hand, you do have to know a bit about what you're aiming for, or the story will be too chaotic. It's a fine balance.
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

By the way, Tina, I liked your comments about the omniscient narrative. This was the first time I used third-person narration throughout a book, and I found it challenging. I see now what the advantages were, now that you've explained them to me!:smileyhappy:
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