I’ve had the flu all week, my annual pre-spring collapse, which seems to be brought on by the blustery winds and fires and my longing for March snows. Instead of writing, as I planned, I’ve been curled up in my bed, watching movies and reading books. One of the things I’m reading is Geraldine Brooks’ PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, which is every bit as marvelous as THE YEAR OF WONDERS. The funny thing is, I discovered Brooks while in Australia last August, and took THE YEAR OF WONDERS with me to on the plane to Tasmania. Tonight, reading around her site, I found this:
Not long after my son was born, I sat down to try to write my first novel. It was to have been set in Tasmania, amid the wild temperate rain forests of Australia’s southernmost state. Instead, I found myself writing about Derbyshire. The fictional voices in my head were English voices, and they kept shouting the Australians down. There was a story that had intrigued me for years, of a village that voluntarily quarantined itself to stop the spread of bubonic plague. It was this tale, rather than the Australian one, that most wanted to be told. When I gave in to the impulse and started to write, it came to me so much more readily than the Tasmanian story. The bright shards of Dryden and Pepys, the vast swathes of Shakespeare lodged in my memory, made it easy to hear the cadences, the rhythms, to know the meanings of archaic words without even looking them up.
Which I thought was just kind of funny and lovely. Currently, I’m writing a protagonist who wandered far away around the world and landed for a long stretch in Tasmania, because it so captured me when I was there, even more than I expected.
Funny how material goes in, and how it emerges into the work. Alchemy.