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Boxing the Octopus

November 29, 2010

Imagine how happy I was to get asked the following three questions by Joni Rogers, of the terrific website: Boxing the Octopus:
1) What draws you to your book topics? 2) How do you manage your research and 3) How have your books changed how you see the world.
Imagine anyone caring.
Usually, I face interviews with a sense of dread: oh no, more work to do. But in this case, I loved having the opportunity to discuss all three questions as part of my ongoing project: taking the process of writing my books more seriously (subtext: Do I really need to suffer this much?). For instance, I have noticed that everytime I don’t know something, like the median temperature for London in March or what kind of trees flower in Tuscany and when — I get angry at myself. And think things like: What am I doing writing this book if I don’t know when almond trees blossom in Florence? Or if they even have almond trees in Florence. I remember that when I was writing Mistress Bradstreet I got stuck for weeks on what kind of guns Puritans used. Not muskets. Not blunder busses. I forget what the answer was. All I remember is hating that I did not know. Freud says everytime we learn something we experience it as a narcisstic injury as learning something means we have to admit we did not know it in the first place. This means that my books are one long continuous narcisstic injury. Or maybe a series of injuries.

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