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MegM
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎02-13-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier



TracyC wrote:
Hey Folks, feel free to ask me questions! I'm just sitting here twiddling my thumbs... You can even ask what I had for dinner (salmon).


I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I wondered if you might suggest a couple of authors that you really enjoy. I have a cradle that is full of books to read or to finish reading. My husband said I couldn't buy anymore until I emptied the cradle but he relented on Mother's Day--so I got Burning Bright, Girl With the Pearl Earring, Murphy's The Pope's Daughter, Jonathan Kellerman's Obsession, Wilbur Smith's The Quest, The Book of Air and Shadows, Kite Runner (for our next neighborhool book club), and Seven Days to the Sea: A Novel of the Exodus. I think that covers most subjects. My new daughter-in-law (who I adore) says she loved The Girl With the Pearl Earring so I told her I'd pass on Burning Bright. Any author you could suggest will go on a list for when I work down the cradle. I envy you living in England. I've visited London three times and loved every minute of the trips, but I must admit that Westminster Abbey could hold me entralled for two days at a time. I liked the Albert Pub across the street about a block down. My husband and I ate there the first time we were there and I rediscovered it when I went back for a week by myself. I'm really looking forward to this discussion.

MegM
MegM
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TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Hi MegM

Yes, Westminster Abbey is amazing, isn't it? The ceiling! In fact, I write about that ceiling in Burning Bright, as a scene takes place at the Abbey. There, that gives you incentive to read it.

Your husband may not appreciate my suggesting more books for your cradle! However, if you haven't read any of the following, I highly recommend them:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

There, that should keep your cradle full!
Frequent Contributor
MegM
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎02-13-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier



TracyC wrote:
Hi MegM

Yes, Westminster Abbey is amazing, isn't it? The ceiling! In fact, I write about that ceiling in Burning Bright, as a scene takes place at the Abbey. There, that gives you incentive to read it.

Your husband may not appreciate my suggesting more books for your cradle! However, if you haven't read any of the following, I highly recommend them:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

There, that should keep your cradle full!


Thank you so much for your suggestions. I really loved the description of the ceiling at Westminster. Looking forward to the rest of the book.

MegM
MegM
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maxcat
Posts: 4,012
Registered: ‎11-01-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

I have one about the covering for the book...it's another of William Blake's poems, but what is the significance in relation to the book?
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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TinaSChang
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

I loved the scene where they wandered into the city following Blake.

I'm curious if you don't preplan the information you are revealing or the
overall story, how do you progress through the novel writing? Do you
research the subject matter, then write a first draft in a rush of
inspiration and then research the necessary beckground to fill it out
and build up other drafts? Or do you write scattered scenes about the
characters, developing for yourself and then pull together a story abandoning
unnecessary scenes and adding others? I realise your answer might be different
from one book to the next, so perhaps just focussing on this book and then
contrasting with your approach to "Girl with a Pearl Earring" would be great.

I don't suppose anyone cares how I write novels since I have yet to complete
one, but I have a world that has been created with a history (your England)
and a few key grand characters (the Blake of the story) and I have young folk
in this world getting themselves into more and more trouble. I have tons of
background scenes (which might be used as flashback or not) and quite a number
of climactic scenes which could be used in a novel, but the structure is incomplete
and there is no ending. I can write first drafts of short stories in a single moment
of inspiration, but I need more preplanned structure to write a novel. Or at least
I think I do... do I need some sort of freeform novel planning? Maybe I've studied to much English Lit and narrative structure and its holding me back.

I guess the other half of this question is how do you come up with the closing? In your case the scene with the mob would be the crucial moment. I won't elaborate in case others haven't finished the story, but when did you decide to aim for that scene?

Thanks for your insights!

Tina
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


maxcat wrote:
I have one about the covering for the book...it's another of William Blake's poems, but what is the significance in relation to the book?




Hi Maxcat--

The significance of the cover is that the publisher thought it looked good! They were looking for a poem from Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience that had good coloring and structure, and had a feeling of narrative - e.g. the couple embracing which gives you an idea of what might be included in the story.

The poem itself - called Little Girl Lost - isn't mentioned in the book but I always think of Maggie when I read it. Funny about that poem: Blake originally included it in Songs of Innocence, and then later moved it across to Songs of Experience. (He made each individual copy, and each one has a slightly different running order of poems.) To me that indicated that he had a fluid idea of what constitutes innocence and experience, and that is a point I explore in Burning Bright - the idea that innocence and experience aren't mutually exclusive, but overlap.

That's not why the publisher chose it, though - they just liked the way it looked.
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier


TinaSChang wrote:
I loved the scene where they wandered into the city following Blake.

I'm curious if you don't preplan the information you are revealing or the
overall story, how do you progress through the novel writing? Do you
research the subject matter, then write a first draft in a rush of
inspiration and then research the necessary beckground to fill it out
and build up other drafts? Or do you write scattered scenes about the
characters, developing for yourself and then pull together a story abandoning
unnecessary scenes and adding others? I realise your answer might be different
from one book to the next, so perhaps just focussing on this book and then
contrasting with your approach to "Girl with a Pearl Earring" would be great.

I guess the other half of this question is how do you come up with the closing? In your case the scene with the mob would be the crucial moment. I won't elaborate in case others haven't finished the story, but when did you decide to aim for that scene?




Tina, this is the hard part about describing writing - that weird magic that pulls everything together. I am trying hard to remember how it worked for me with Burning Bright, but it's hazy already. I think I was clear at the start that Blake would help the children (Maisie in stable), and the children would help Blake (the mob scene). And I knew where the children would end up (I'm trying to word this so I don't give the ending away for others), but I didn't necessarily know the specifics - the stable, the mob - right away. Those details came to me over time, as I aimed towards them. I sort of knew the peaks of the story without the specific plot details until I got closer to them.

This was different from Girl with a Pearl Earring, where I knew from the start that the story would lead to the painting of the picture, and that would get the girl thrown out of her job because the earrings she wore were Vermeer's wife's. However, some of the details I didn't know until I wrote them: Griet piercing her ear, getting Vermeer to pierce her other ear, Cornelia's involvement in cranking up her mother's jealousy, the role of the patron. So I knew the overall swoop of the story, and added details as I went.

From how you're describing your own writing, it sounds to me as if you do need to know the ending first, and the overall direction the story will take, and then you plug in the scattered scenes you've written. I tend to write from start to finish, one scene following another, as that weaves the words together more tightly. But I know that other writers do it differently, writing all over the place and then rearranging.

In fact, I'm trying that out a little myself with the book I'm working on now: instead of writing start to finish, I'm writing scenes that I feel like writing, just to play with voice and character. Eventually, when I really get going, I'll settle into one scene following the next.
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drbethnolan
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Hello, Tracy - I finally got to start Burning Bright last week, as I was tied up finishing some other reads. I am truly enjoying it! :smileyhappy:

I am wondering about the character of Mrs. Blake. I find her rather intriguing as she seems like such a gentle presence and devoted to her husband's genius. Did you base her character on research you found (I've never heard much about Blake's wife), and was it true, as in the book, that Blake taught her to read? I just loved that.

Thanks! - Beth Nolan
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Hi Beth--

Yes, I based Catherine Blake on what I read about her. She was absolutely devoted to her husband, though she confessed she didn't always understand what he was talking about! Sometimes when visions overtook him, she sat by his side, motionless for hours, helping him through. She helped him with printing and colouring his works, and even learned to paint a little herself. Since they had no children (we don't know why, but given the sexual energy of many of his illustrations, it can't be that they were chaste!), they were all each other had, and were the world to each other.

And yes, he did teach her to read.
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TinaSChang
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

It is amazing how similarly you approached the two novels:

1) heading towards the mob scene and the stable scene
(and maybe also towards the revelation of what happened in
Maggie's past)

2) heading towards the painting and the subsequent consequences.

I felt in "Burning Bright" that the climactic scenes were
foreshadowed, while in "Girl with a Pearl Earring" the
climax was much more unexpected. Yes the painting was
expected but it was built into a climactic scene in a way
that was unexpected for me.

Thank you so much for your insights! I can really imagine students
in the future pulling up these old B&N classes the way I used to
read through Wordsworth's sister's diary trying to find some hint
at how he wrote some poem or other.
Tina S. Chang
Science and Math Fiction

http://profiles.yahoo.com/tinaschangsf

tinaschangsf@yahoo.com
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JulieZ
Posts: 21
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

Hi, Ms. Chevalier! I just finished Burning Bright today, and I loved it!

I'm 16 and an aspiring writer. I especially love historical fiction, and I'm sort of bored with the novel I've been trying to write for years and am thinking of starting over with historical fiction. I have a few ideas but would need to do much more research to conquer the enormous task of writing about the true events and the world of the past. So I was wondering -- do you write a general format for your novels and then fill in the blanks from your research, or read everything there is about the time period before beginning to write?

Thanks so much! Once again, I really enjoyed reading Burning Bright!
Julie
Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

[ Edited ]
Hi Julie,

It's impressive that you're only 16 but have been writing a novel for years! Aren't you supposed to be doing homework?

You are brave to attempt historical fiction already. It's not easy - though I must say, the research part of it is wonderful and gives me a lot of ideas. I usually have a spark of an idea (like, "I want to write about that crazy man William Blake" or "I love this Vermeer painting and want to write about the girl in it" or "Hey, great cemetery - I've gotta set a novel here" ), and then start doing quite a lot of general research before I attempt to start writing. I do still research a bit as I write, and fill in the blanks as needed, but I need the grounding of the first lot of research to make me feel sure I can recreate the historical setting and context. So if you have an idea for an historical novel, I'd suggest you read first, then write.

Good luck!

Message Edited by TracyC on 05-25-200709:04 AM

Author
TracyC
Posts: 36
Registered: ‎04-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

By the way, everyone, today (Friday) is the last day for this online book club, so if you have any last questions, be sure to ask now!
Frequent Contributor
cookie
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎12-31-2006
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Re: Questions for Tracy Chevalier

ugh, oh no ! My book still hasn't come !
I hope I can comment here after I read it though.
I hope you keep checking back Tracy .
Please !!!
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