13 March 2016

On writing motivations

One of the great lies that writers will sometimes say is,  ‘I wrote only for myself, I don’t care if anybody reads it’.

That’s like saying I talk only for myself, I don’t care if anybody listens.  Writing from the beginning of time since we could write on cave walls has been about communication, and that’s the magic for me. When I write, I’m communicating with you one on one. There’s an Arabic expression that when one man dies, the whole universe dies.  When one person reads the book, a whole new universe – in this case of Maya and Shane – exists in your world completely different from everybody else’s and that’s still the cool part for me.

A writer without a reader is the man who claps with one hand. The reader is a completely necessary part of that, and that’s why I love to write. It’s that feeling of communication, that feeling of keeping you up all night. I want to be the one that keeps you up all night; I want you to curse me in the morning, because you had to know what was going to happy to Maya, Shane, Lily and all the rest. That’s the part that jazzes me still after all these years.

On forming the characters

I want these to be people like you and me. I’m not really interested in writing a James Bond or a superhero; I want them to have the same foibles, the same mistakes and the same feelings out of their element. It’s classically the ordinary man and the extraordinary circumstance. I enjoy that and I wanted to feel like this is somebody you know. This is you. This is your neighbour.

I think that’s probably what people mean when they say I do domestic. Sometimes I do family, sometimes I don’t, but I’m hoping that the people feel like normal people.

I don’t really write books with a lot of violence or bloodletting, I’d rather the suspense come from something smaller, like dropping a pebble into a placid pool. It’s not choppy waters; it’s the small thing that can ripple.  

Normally what I try to do is take a normal situation as ask ‘what if?’ All fiction comes down to asking ‘what if’. A few years ago a few friends of mine told me they were worried about their child’s online activities. They decided to put a little spy camera on his laptop, and I thought, ‘What if? What if they get a message that changes their lives?’ Just keep asking the what if’s, turn them around a little bit, twist it, look at it in a different way. That’s what I prefer to do, something more ordinary than some great reaching-the-President kind of a story. I like to find that small thing and turn it in a different direction.

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