|Interview with Andrea Goldsmith regarding writing and reading
||[May. 20th, 2013|07:50 am]
Today I'm welcoming Andrea Goldsmith to my blog. Andrea's latest novel is
The Memory Trap .
You will find my review at the end of this interview. So welcome Andrea.Good to have you here.
1. What comes first for you character or plot?
When I've finished a novel I read to fill up again. The first inkling of a new novel occurs with an emerging idea, an idea that won't let me go. And sometimes more than one idea. In the case of THE MEMORY TRAP, I was interested in genius and how much licence it affords the gifted person, i.e. does Ramsay's gift at the piano, excuse his selfish, narcissistic behaviour in the rest of his life. And I was interested in memory at both the personal level and at the national level (which is where the monuments come in). The ideas generate the characters, and with the characters comes narrative - story. It's a very organic process with nothing in the way of planning and certainly no novel outlines. I write my way into the characters and into the novel. With six out of seven of my novels I have not known the ending until I reached it.
2. Was their a particular incident, place or monument that first sparked your thinking for this novel?
Even since i started travelling as a twenty-year-old I've been interested in monuments. I'm fascinated the way in which monuments reflect the prevailing cultural and political culture. How when Suddam Husseun was overthrown, for example, all the statues of him came tumbling down. How a monument like the mammoth Bremen elephant, first erected in 1932 to celebrate Germany's colonial conquests, has come to be seen as an ANTI-colonial symbol today. When memory became a driving theme of the new novel I wanted to approach it from as many angles as possible. I can't remember exactly how and when I decided to make my character, NIna Jameson, an international consultant on memorial projects - but I am very pleased I did. I've seen some wonderful monuments these past few years.
3. I know you write literary essays and novels but I felt your writing was very poetic. Have you written much poetry?
I love the language - both the words and the rhythms. And there IS rhythm to good prose - it is this that often lends the emotional weight to a piece of writing. So, apart from the terrible adolescent poetry that most of us write, I have never written poetry. But I am alert to the poetics of prose.
4. How important an influence is music in your life?
Music and writing/reading are my two great passions. Music reaches parts of me inaccessible by other means. I've always known this. When I was younger, I often did not know what I was feeling until I sat at the piano and started playing a particular piece of music. (My long-suffering family were also similarly informed!) I still play the piano, although badly, and I attend concerts (I particularly like solo performances), and I listen to music at home. It is a great pleasure and a great solace.
5. Were you ever considering a career in music or was it a more a hobby?
I did consider it in high school, but I wasn't good enough.
6. Do you have music playing while writing?
I must have total silence when I'm working, total focus. Music can never be background for me.
7. Was Ramsay based even loosely on someone you know or have met even casually?
All of my characters are made up, including Ramsay. One of the joys of writing fiction is the creation of characters. Perhaps it's the fiction writer playing at God...
8. Where is your favourite place to write?
I have a lovely study. It's upstairs, and through my window are trees and sky, and inside there's plenty of room for my mess - I'm very messy - and a large beanbag for my very literary dog.
9. Do you read fiction while working on a novel? Or do you tend towards reading non fiction or poetry?
I have much the same reading patterns no matter where I am up to in a novel of my own. I read non-fiction in the morning over a slow breakfast. In the middle of the day I read poetry and/or fiction, and I finish the day with fiction. I am, however, very selective of what fiction I read when I am writing. Different types of fictions at different drafts.
10. What are you currently reading?
Morning reading is A.N. Wilson's wonderfully idiosyncratic AFTER THE VICTORIANS. During the day - and for the first time - I'm reading Vera Brittain's TESTAMENT OF YOUTH. At night: Lydia Millet's highly original OH PURE AND RADIANT HEART in which 3 of the physicists who worked on the first A-bomb suddenly materialise in the present day. For poetry I'm dipping into Lowell (he enters THE MEMORY TRAP) and I'm re-reading Kristin Henry's remarkable verse novel ALL THE WAY HOME. (I'm in the process of writing an essay on memory and memorialising and Henry's precise yet evocative language in a story infused with memory is an excellent companion.)
11. You’ve written about obsession in a couple of novels. What part does obsession play in your own life?
I'm fascinated by obsesssion. I think it is common among artists of all sorts - painters, sculptors, musicians and, yes, writers. Without the obsessive focus you simply would not get the work done. And I also think that obsession plays a role in all couple-type relationships. It's what makes us ignore the less-than-attractive qualities in those we love. Obsession wears blinkers.
12. What is the most helpful advice about writing you have ever received?
READ - and not just your friends. Read the best and read widely and make sure to include plenty of poetry in your daily reading.
13. Who are some of your favourite authors?
Poetry: Milosz, Zagajewski, Auden, Keats, Shakespeare
Fiction: Jane Austen, Patrick White, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Strout
Thanks Andrea for sharing some of your writing and reading experience with us. You can find out more about Andrea here. http://andreagoldsmith.com.au
I was drawn into this book right from the beginning. By page 16 I was firmly hooked. Nina is the second wife of Daniel. I liked the interaction between them when he tells her he is leaving as has been having an affair for months. He says, “I’m sorry Nina, I really am. I didn't plan this.’
‘But neither did you stop it,’ she replies. That really says it all.
I liked the way the imagery of the way everyday occurrences without him was like ‘falling through thin ice. ‘And I loved the image of the snow turning the shrubs into ’giant cauliflowers.’ This is a beautifully written novel. I also liked that Nina’s anguish at Daniel’s defection is not interminably described, but left to the reader at times to fill in the blanks. Nina decides, life in London is too hard without Daniel and goes back to Melbourne to consult on a memorial project. Melbourne is where she lived when young and where her sister Zoe, her husband and two teenage children live. This also means she meets up again with Ramsay, a famous pianist and his brother Sean who she lived next door to as a child.
In the way of memory the story dips in and out between the present and the past. As it does the reader comes to understand more of each of the characters and what has shaped them. The reader experiences each character’s emotions thoughts and feelings. It is a novel about marriage and loss, about love and obsession, remembrance and resentment and of letting the past shape you or moving on with life.
Even though at times I heartily disagreed with some aspects, for example the reaction to Ramsey’s violent actions in New York, and the comments about selfless love, I couldn’t help but keep reading. Elliot, Zoe's husband and a biographer of literary women, comes across initially as cold and verbally abusive to Zoe when we first meet him but as we discover more we see what makes him behave as he does. We see how a corrosive love or obsession can affects a person’s life and those of family around them. These are complex people that show not just the selfishness at times of genius but the selfishness of humanity.