I enjoy using social media to chat with readers and get a feeling for what they like and dislike in the books they read.
I recently sent out an invitation on my Facebook page to ask questions about the writing process, where the ideas come from, or anything else readers are curious to know. In this post I'll tackle the first question, which was posed by friend and former colleague Lorna:
do you get into a Character's head when you've had no personal
experience. I finished reading The Goldfinch today and it was uncanny
how the female author got into two male teenage heads.
A: A difficult question to answer, Lorna, because it cuts right to the heart of what writers do. Without a doubt, great characters make for great stories, and it's my ambition to develop characters that are as round and realistic as possible while still being quirky and original enough to be interesting.
Writers are a little odder than usual folk. Maybe you noticed that when we worked together! It's always been very important for me in my personal life to say as little as possible and to listen and watch other people as much as possible. I remember being in a Tim Hortons one day drinking a coffee, in a foul mood. People around me were getting on my nerves. I caught myself and said, "Listen to them, Mike. Stop crabbing to yourself and listen. They're trying to tell you who they are and what they want from life." It was a good lesson to stop focusing on myself and start focusing on people around me. As soon as I start doing that, I learn things about them I can bring into the characters I develop in my stories.
As for being able to work with female characters, I have to say I'm pleased with the way both Karen Stainer and Ellie March have come along (I've included in this post, at the top, the stock photo I've used as a reference for Ellie).
I've been fortunate to have had an extremely positive relationship through the years with my mother and my wife, and they've taught me things about the female experience that have served me well in life. I'd describe myself, without hesitation and with pride, as a feminist. Many of the things I've learned from them and from other women I've known find their way into my female characters.
Ultimately, though, I suppose it comes down to empathy. As a writer, you need to develop the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and feel what they feel, think what they think, desire what they desire. I haven't read Donna Tartt's book, but I expect she has this talent. I figure if I can develop this talent as well, I'll be able to speak through characters in a voice that is a perfect blend of theirs and mine.
Thanks to Lorna for a great question. Please feel free to stop by my Facebook page and leave a question of your own for another future installment of Q & A With the Author!