Perhaps because I’m working on a new novel (the third in my “Charley Ridgway” series of trashy noir set on Maui), I’ve been reading a lot more old interviews in The Paris Review than I used to. Considering that I never before read The Paris Review until I installed Flipboard on my iPad, even just the few of the journal’s long Q&As with famous writers that I’ve read so far have been illuminating.
Especially this one with Ray Bradbury, published in the Spring 2010 issue. Seriously, this is gold for anyone who looks upon writing predominantly as art:
Why do you write science fiction?
Science fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.
The whole interview is like that–optimistic and full of life and heart. Bradbury’s an American treasure.
On the flip side, I found that a surprising number of these interviews delve into what I consider the dull nuts and bolts of writing. Seriously, do people really care whether a writer uses a computer, typewriter or Mont Blanc fountain pen to churn out pages? What difference does it make, except to show off some writers’ technological eccentricities? Maybe I’m just weird, but I want to know why the writer put the ideas on the page in the first place, not how.
I’m undoubtedly prickly on this issue because that novel I’m working on is still nowhere near publication. It’s in the Done-but-I’m-not-happy-with-it stage. Of course, I’ve never really been happy with any of my books, but I’m not at the point where I can send it to my publisher (that would be Event Horizon Press) with confidence.
Some background: I’ve been working on this particular novel for well over a year now, though that’s a bit misleading. I started writing it in late 2013–had it all out outlined and even wrote the first few chapters. But then my good friend (and partial inspiration for Ridgway) Chris Atencio committed suicide in January 2014, and finishing the book dropped off my list of priorities. For a year, I didn’t even look at what I’d done on it. Then early this year, I re-opened the files and impetuously decided to finish it.
I completed the first draft in about two months (it’s amazing what you can do if you force yourself to write at least 1,000 words a day, every day). I put it through one complete page-by-page revision, and now a friend is reading it to make sure the whole thing makes sense. And this is the hard part–just waiting for news, like a patient jumping every time a phone rings because a doctor’s supposed to call with test results.
But hey–that’s writing.
Photo of Ray Bradbury: Alan Light/Wikimedia Commons