Recently, I’ve read several interviews with Anne Tyler. She’s been called an “invisible literary superstar” because of her habit of living a very private life in Baltimore and giving few interviews in past years. But for now, she’s gone public, promoting her latest novel, A Spool of Blue Thread.
A Spool of Blue Thread is her twentieth published novel. I’m reading it now, and I’ve read all nineteen others, most more than once. Anne Tyler has been my silent mentor in my own writing. I study the seeming simplicity of her prose becoming both inspired and intimidated.
She writes about human relationships, usually revolving around whole families. I write about human relationships too (note the motto of this blog) because … well, nothing is more interesting to me.
I’d like to share a quote from the first interview I read this month:
I began writing with the idea that I wanted to know what it would be like to be somebody else, and that’s never changed.
I can’t tell you how much I relate to those words. I’m happy to be me. I’ve not had a life free of trouble and care, but then few of us do. My life experiences have made me who I am, and that’s mostly a good thing. But life experiences are also limited by circumstance. Imagination is not.
Abundant imagination is one thing I was blessed with. I suspect most fiction writers would say the same. From childhood, not only have we delighted in our own make-believe, but we’ve enhanced that with a constant stream of books filled with the make-believe of others.
Of course we don’t read only fiction. We also read non-fiction to learn about people and places and events. We stuff our heads with facts which, of course, fuel our imaginations—and our curiosity. We question, we observe, we wonder.
In my novels, I’ve written to know what it would be like to be a middle-aged widow hiding from life; a young man desperately seeking self-identity; and a street-tough young woman afraid to believe she’s worthy of love. More recently, I’ve been writing to find out what it’s like to be a young wife caught between her heart’s desire and her sense of obligation to her abusive, addicted husband; a middle-aged man caught in a plan of revenge set in motion two centuries earlier; and a quirky young woman who rediscovers self-confidence by pretending to be someone else.
Who do you write to be?