Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Confessions from a Real Writer

Reynolds Price said in a lecture I heard, “Writers are people on whom everything is lost except the most important.” I thought that so profound I wrote it down. Over the years, I’ve come to regard it as God’s honest truth.

It’s a great excuse for being late places. I’m sliding in late today again with this blog, having missed my last date and being late for the one before that. But it’s not just me. Last week some parents of a music composer said their thirty-one-year old son missed the time change this spring. “How was I supposed to know that?” he demanded. I could completely identify.

Being a writer means you live in at least two worlds at once: the one you think we are in and the one of our current book. Writers like me, who walk around with several additional plots in our heads, occupy several worlds simultaneously. I may look like I’m in Smyrna, Georgia, in June 2008, but I may also be down in Hopemore, Georgia, (which doesn’t even exist except in my southern mysteries) in December two-thousand-and-something, wondering how to get amateur sleuth MacLaren Yarbrough unshackled from her desk (What Are You Wearing to Die?). Or maybe I’m exploring a Georgia barrier island in August, and wondering what Katharine will remain of a body buried there over a hundred years ago (Sins of the Fathers). Or I might even be back in central North Carolina in 1949, wondering if Carley Marshall will ever find out about her parents (The Remember Box--to be reissued this summer).

I may look like I’m paying attention to what you are saying—and I’m trying, real hard—but you just mentioned Victorian hatpins, and I realized a hatpin would be a great way to kill somebody if you could get them seated in a chair with the back of their neck exposed . . . so off I go to a restaurant where a villain is creeping up on somebody, and you wonder why I haven’t answered your question about whether I’d like to have tea with you and a friend in this great little place where they let you wear hats with real Victorian hatpins.

It may take me a moment to answer you, because I am trying to sort out in my head which is the most important issue at the moment. That’s the excuse I gave to the cop who asked why I ran smack into a car that had stopped to turn left: I had just realized that what Joe Riddley Yarbrough, MacLaren’s husband, was packing for a fishing trip was not at all what he would choose. So I’d popped down to Hopemore for an instant, to sort that out, and flat-out barrelled into a car that had stopped in Smyrna.

We writers have already mastered the space/time continuum scientists are trying to find. We live our entire lives with one foot in the world you can see, another foot in the world of our current book, and another foot--some of us are built that way--in the world of a future book. It's no wonder we run late sometimes, or seem a bit vague.
So please forgive me for being late with my blog. And don’t blame me if I can’t remember your name right away—I not only meet a lot of people in my travels, but I have this host of people who have been in my books or who are going to be in my book, and they are all rattling around inside of me. So far I haven’t confused a real person with a fictitious one, but it’s only a matter of time.

Speaking of time, I have just realized I’ve gotten the sequence of events wrong in the book I’m currently working on, so I really need to go . . . .

But before I do, I see I've forgotten to mention that you can read all about my titles--past, present, and some of the future--at
Let me hear from you!

1 comment:

Mrinal Bose said...

Nice post. You echo the feelings of all real writers in a profound way.
Thank you.