Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com interviews Louise Dean whose novels have all been reviewed to critical acclaim in major UK newspapers, literary journals and overseas press. She has won the Society of Authors Betty Trask Prize, Le Prince Maurice Prize, been nominated for The Guardian First Book Prize, and longlisted for the Man Booker and IMPAC.
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Louise Dean whose novels have all been reviewed to critical acclaim in major UK newspapers, literary journals and overseas press. She has won the Society of Authors Betty Trask Prize, Le Prince Maurice Prize, been nominated for The Guardian First Book Prize, and longlisted for the Man Booker and IMPAC.
Her first book Becoming Strangers was named one of The Observer's top four books of the year, and her most recent book The Old Romantic an Oprah Book of the Week.
Louise has taught for the Arvon Foundation on novel writing and short stories and spoken at Hay on Wye, Brisbane, Galle and Edinburgh Festivals.
She has appeared on BBC News, Radio 4, Woman's Hour with Jenni Murray and Mariella Frostrup amongst others.
Louise was educated at Cambridge University and has lived and worked in Hong Kong, the US and France.
Her most recent novel will shortly be published.
Norm: Good day Louise and thanks for participating in our interview.
Why do you write, how long have you been writing and how long did it take you to get your first major book contract?
Louise: I’ve been writing for twenty years, and it took me 8 years to get my first major contract. I write to preserve the brief experience of being alive.
Norm: What has been the best part about being published?
Louise: Learning that it’s the writing that I love. Funnily enough, being published when it came was less alluring than the process of being present before the blank page.
Norm: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Louise: For productivity - routine and attaching an emotional heart to the novel from the first words, a yearning for intimacy is perhaps the best way to put it and the desire to make something beautiful, sad and funny.
For content - self-pity. On both counts as both useful and destructive.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Louise: All the time! You have to be grateful for it. It makes you better. If you can’t stomach it, don’t venture forth. Keep your writing private until you’re strong enough to know your ambition for craft skill is more important than your need to be patted.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your writing career and why?
Louise: A perfect sentence here or there. Mystical and allusive which somehow puts its finger on something we find hard to say. With my first book it was the mysterious phrase ‘I am coming to you for help. I don’t know why.’
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Louise: Finding time and the wherewithal to support the habit. Life is hard, but writing is not. It makes life bearable. The greatest challenge is to be prevented from writing. That’s why you start becoming reclusive, getting up early and staying home!
Norm: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of the writing process?
Louise: The emergencies of life seems to throw things and bother you, but actually they’re vital for sharpening your tools. Then there’s that Sunday sadness.
You learn that the sadness
you feel at your own ineptitude is just temporary. You learn to wait.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but you’d be nothing without it.
None of it is difficult when you accept you have to wait for the next
move, it’s beyond your consciousness.
It will come, when and where you least expect it. Be very quiet, look behind the cushions…
Norm: What do you think most characterizes your writing? As a follow up, do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
Louise: Intuition far more than logic. I don’t employ logic much at all until the story is done, then I use as much as can and try to ditch intuition.
It begins with a vague idea. A visual scene. Suffering. Then I try to remove the pity and construct a form of humour around it so that the suffering can sallie forth and do its work of entertaining. That’s pretty much it. Finding the costume is the thing. I play a lot fight characters, location, time, and events until I get things into ‘a story’ which is both cunning and charming. Trial and error means the spillage of thousands of words. I make a mess, then I tidy it up.
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
Louise: You try not to disgrace your ‘characters’ but there’s always one you skewer. A novel needs that gleeful, wicked energy.
Norm: Do you write stories to express something you believe or are they just for entertainment?
Louise: I write to unearth my deepest convictions, to find out what I believe. As my conviction are mutable and temporary, I suppose I have a few books left in me.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Louise: Don’t wonder
anymore. Try KRITIKME. I feel so strongly that anyone who reads can
write, and that there’s a common process that I decided to bottle
my process and share it with other people who like me struggled to
find out how to write a book. With KRITIKME.
it’s possible within
ninety days to write a novel. I know because I wrote my last novel
live using the process. Now, I hope to write a novel a year rather
than every five years. Do yourself a favour and enjoy the adventure
of a lifetime at KRITIKME.
Norm: Could you tell our readers something about your about to be published novel?
Louise: It’s the love of my life. I had to write it. It took me a while to find out how to write it, but now I am thrilled with it as it’s the first book I’ve written as a woman, using the female voice.
Norm: What served as the primary inspiration for the book?
Louise: Suffering, as always. The urgent need to delete self-pity and replace it with humour. To provide something useful. To preserve something beautiful. The details changed, the impulse remained the same until I found the frame.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
Louise: At LOUISE DEAN
Norm: What is next for Louise Dean?
Louise: Thousands of people writing novels with me at KRITIKME, disproving one and for all that writing cannot be learnt. We’re starting a revolution in writing. That, and a novel a year from now on!
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Louise: Can you teach me to write a novel.
Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and read your work. Good luck with all of your future endeavors. I look forward to reading your next novel.