Have I always wanted to be a writer? What inspired me to write, was that I love to read and I love what happens to you when you read. That feeling of living in the world of what you’re reading and at the same time in your own. Paul Auster once said that a book is ‘the only place in the world where two strangers can meet, on very intimate terms.’
I plot before I start, but I am also an instinctive writer, making decisions as I write along. It takes time and a lot of love to find the words that can move a reader, and I am still polishing my skills. I learned one important lesson: to be a writer you must write. You learn how to write by writing. It requires determination. Amanda Patterson gave me the best writing advice. She told me that a page a day is 365 pages a year. I kept that in mind when I started to write. It took me about two years to finish my first novel of 280 pages. The blank screen on my computer could be intimidating, but I just filled it with words, knowing I could fix it later. It worked!
Another advice someone else gave me was that if the ideas overwhelm you, just sit on them; they will either grow on you or they will have lost their appeal and they will no longer worry you.
I work in the mornings and read in the afternoons. So generally, I write and do research a few hours in the morning. The afternoons I read: poetry, history, literature; whatever is available at my local library or from the Internet or what’s going around in book clubs. I hardly watch TV but often go to the movies. I also do book reviews and learn from other writers. Since I write, I am a more attentive reader, paying more attention to the writer’s craft and seeing the magic when something moves me.
Where do I get my ideas? Ideas are everywhere, floating around everyone all the time. I don’t get ideas; they come to me! From imagining. From making things up. From dreaming and daydreaming. From eavesdropping on snippets of conversations. From asking ‘what ifs’, from researching and searching: I am always looking for the magical images. Always trying to find a story in what I see or experience. It can be in a painting or in music, it can be in the way a dancer moves or a girl places a strand of hair behind her ears. It can be in the car, in the shop, in the newspaper or in a book that I am reading. Isabel Allende said it so beautifully, ‘I seek truth and beauty in the transparency of an autumn leaf, in the perfect form of a seashell on the beach, in the curve of a woman’s back, in the texture of an ancient tree trunk, but also in the elusive forms of reality’. (Portrait in Sepia) That’s what inspired me to write.