I wanted to ask her the same question I asked of Neil Gaiman a few years ago: Do you know where your stories are going before you write them, or do you find out as you go along? She partly answered the question in talking about the thought she puts into her stories before she starts writing. I especially liked what she said about deciding at the beginning what she wants the reader to get from the book and using that as a guide; I hadn't thought about doing that with fiction, but yes, it makes sense. I'm going to try it the next time I attempt a novel (it's got to happen sometime because I already have a title).
I'm not, like Ms. Kingsolver, a methodical writer. I'm more from the Writing by the Seat of Your Pants School of Composition, which has its drawbacks. (Plan blog posts in advance -- are you kidding?) Outlines have always seemed a little artificial to me, and I've always had fun writing just to see what would show up on the page. When I started my dissertation, I struggled to corral my thoughts, which ran all over the place like a herd of stray cats. I had to work hard to organize my ideas and was in despair at the seeming ease with which other people got their thesis in focus. What works for a shorter piece isn't necessarily appropriate for a dissertation.
Two years ago, I was just finishing my first two chapters. At the time I didn't know that I was off to a good start, just that it was hard work each and every time I sat down to write. It's like that sometimes.
Happily, it worked out over time, the dissertation got done, and I turned it into a book, which is out there for the world to see. I think it turned out great and would like everyone to wind up with one in their Christmas stocking, if at all possible, so that I can give readings just like Ms. Kingsolver and have my own driver.
I could have paid someone to write a press release for me, but as I told my sister the other day, I used to write press releases for a living and am not sure someone else can write a better one than I can do myself.
So here's my homemade press release, guaranteed to tell the truth and guide you in your buying decision:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dazzling New Talent Scores Big With First Book
Lexington, Kentucky - November 27, 2012 - Ariadne is a king's daughter living the good life on Crete when a dark secret from her family's past catches up with the present, threatening to destroy her romance with a prince on a mission. When Theseus arrives on Crete as part of a contingent due to be sacrificed to the insatiable Minotaur, Ariadne is smitten, even in the face of her father's anger. As keeper of the labyrinth's secrets, she is the one person who can save Theseus and the Athenian youths by revealing the labyrinth's innermost ways. Moved by love and haunted by fear, Ariadne must decide between loyalty to her father and country and loyalty to the sinewy Theseus. Like any good myth, this story has it all: love, death, family, sex, betrayal, a boat, and a man with a bull's head.
But behind the story you think you know lies an even more exciting terrain. Just who is Ariadne, after all, and why does she know the secrets of the labyrinth if Daedalus built it? Who is the Minotaur, really, and what does everyone have against him? If Theseus is such a prince, what's up with him and Phaedra? What really happened on Naxos? Why is everybody doing the Crane Dance? And why do these characters show up again and again in different guises over the centuries, almost recognizable but tantalizingly transformed?
Ms. Hackworth handles all of these questions with grace and aplomb, guiding you through the bewildering byways of labyrinth lore with the assurance of one who has been there, proving that it really can be solved by walking. You will be a-mazed as the Holy Grail, A Midsummer Night's Dream, a mysterious white whale, and even Bruce Springsteen flash before your eyes in this no-holds-barred tell-all. Solved by Walking: Paradox and Resolution in the Labyrinth is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's, and other online retailers, or you can always go to your favorite bookseller, be shocked if it isn't there, and ask for it. This timeless classic is sure to be on everyone's bestseller list, so beat the rush and get your copy today!
(I told you I could do it.)