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We asked the authors of 10 of the most anticipated books of the spring about their writerly resolutions
My resolution: read more poetry; read less Twitter. I love Twitter, both as an emergent form of linguistic performance and as an excellent way to blow several otherwise useful hours. But I used to check Twitter first thing in the morning, which started to feel like waking up, stretching, then opening a window on a crowd of a thousand strangers screaming. Last year, someone gave me The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry, and I started opening that first thing in the morning, rather than my Twitter app. What I like best about Twitter is the way the confines of the form encourage all sorts of writerly chicanery. But, despite its eternal promise of perpetual stimulation, Twitter in the morning’s quiet hours sounds like an orchestra warming up, while my trusty anthology sounds like a symphony. The randomness of the anthology offers all the quick-hit linguistic pleasure I crave, but with the added bonus of, you know, second drafts. Sometime thirds. Craft and polish. Twitter may be the new poetry, but next year I just want more poetry.
– Adam Sternbergh’s novel Near Enemy comes out this month.
Besides reaffirming my commitment to the first-person narrator, I resolve to read more. But how to justify this when reading feels so…idle? I mean, shouldn’t I be working? This is a serious issue for me. Nadeem Aslam (The Blind Man’s Garden, The Wasted Vigil) reminded me in a taxi recently that, for a writer, reading is working. He then suggested I take six months off and do nothing else but read. I don’t know whether to thank Mr. Aslam for this suggestion, or sock him, because he touched a nerve – this keen and looming awareness of all that I have not read. Who am I to pose as a writer when Anna Karenina, The Divine Comedy, and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz are all closed books to me? With this in mind, I hereby resolve: to take one more crack at Ulysses (this time, with the help of my father-in-law’s secret weapon: RTE Radio’s 1982 dramatized recording of same). And I hereby resolve to bore into Alistair MacLeod’s short stories. And, as William Faulkner’s ghost is my witness, I resolve to read The Sound and The Fury. I can’t wait.
– John Vaillant’s novel The Jaguar’s Children comes out this month.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Because my first novel is set to be released within the first couple of weeks of the new year, my resolution for 2015 is pretty simple: Sit down and write another book. But that resolution is big and scary. Scratch that. I tend to be a binge writer, an all-or-nothing writer, so it’s tempting to try and corral myself into a new style: Learn to find it satisfying to work for just two hours, every single day. But isn’t pushing myself to do something so unnatural going to be fruitless? I’ve given up my day job starting in early 2015, so maybe it’s as easy as this: Do not let children, dogs, and household tasks supersede work-time. Here’s what worked the last time: I stuck a big sign on the outside of my office door. The sign says one thing: NO. It’s a pre-emptive sign. Can you make me a sandwich? (No.) Can I get a ride to the mall? (No.) Can you stop what you’re doing? (No.) Be it resolved: A bigger NO sign for the outside of the office door. And perhaps a new sign, for the inside of the door, a sign that says YES.
–Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s novel The Devil You Know comes out this month.
I’ve always had trouble differentiating resolutions from wishes, but in 2015 I resolve/wish to be more diligent about my writing time and not spend so much of it playing online Scrabble or looking at Tiny House Blog. There is a tidiness and exactness to living in a tiny house (which, frankly, despite my addiction to looking at them, is probably something I will never do) that is the opposite of writing a novel and therefore much more appealing most days.
– Helen Humphreys’s novel The Evening Chorus comes out in February.
How will I live in 2015? Calmly, chastely, modestly? Most resolutions imply as much. Eating less. Pulling oneself together. Clean living. Goodbye to all that! Here’s what I think instead: I will put more of my heart into my writing. It’s in All True Not a Lie In It, probably more than in anything else I’ve written, despite the fact that it’s about Daniel Boone, someone unlike me in almost every way. He’s a dead frontier hunter, I’m a female vegetarian. But I’m in there, and so are my children. And it works in reverse: at first, the rougher voices in my book were hard to write. The swearing seemed to come straight from the foul-mouthed characters, not from me. I’ve never been a curser. But I got into it. And I find I’m joining in. So let us resolve to be unafraid. To dissect our pickled hearts before an audience. To let some light in. And to swear like it’s 1799.
– Alix Hawley’s novel All True Not a Lie In It comes out in February.
After finishing long projects I often find myself totally lost at sea, drained of creative mojo, wondering if I’ll ever write another word again. Big books take it out of you – it’s like giving blood for five years straight. But I’m starting to get the tingle back and in 2015 I hope to write a book for younger readers. I actually don’t really know what this means. The term “YA” always sounded like a social disease to me, but as far as I can tell, kids and young adults tend to like really creepy, twisted, strange books that are also raw and honest and have a bit of danger thrown in. Kids can smell you faking it from a mile away. So I’m going to try and honour that and write something a little bonkers for them. We’ll see. It’ll be my homage to Roald Dahl, one of my great heroes.
– Reif Larsen’s novel I Am Radar comes out in February.
This year I’m going to write a whole book on an old typewriter. I’m sick of computers and all their bleeps and updates and their terrible openness to interruptions. As I write this, I’m alone in a cabin by the sea in Scotland, and half an hour ago I typed a letter to my daughter. It was a silly note about a seal puppy and I could have sent her a text or an e-mail. But no. I am resolved. I rolled a sheet of paper into my beautiful, blue Litton Imperial, I typed a paragraph, pulled it out and signed it and folded the paper and typed an envelope and attached a stamp. In a minute I will walk down the coast to the hotel and and kiss the envelope and drop it into the red box. Writing is an action, not an afterthought, it is an job of love and faith, not a sneeze, and this year I am determined to slow everything down to the careful old thump, the beat of the heart. Why are we so determined to take the effort out of everything and save time? The fun of getting it right is the joy of work. And increasingly you really want to live in that joy, establishing the spring and punch of your style, sending your readers something they might want to keep. That is how it felt writing parts of my new novel on an old typewriter and realizing everything was present.
– Andrew O’Hagan’s novel The Illuminations comes out in February.
You know those moments before you fall fully asleep? That netherworld stretch when your brain runs through an incessant loop of thoughts as it powers down for the night? For my brain, it’s always one of two loops: a sticky scene in the novel I’m working on, or a replay of the best hockey goal I ever scored. The novel thoughts are understandable, given the time I spend on the damned things; the hockey stuff less so, given I haven’t played in 25 years. But the time has come. This is the year I’m buying skates that don’t hurt my feet, one of those $100 sticks, the gear that supposedly prevents the breaking of bones. Then I’m playing some hockey. God knows it’s overdue. But there’s a literary benefit as well: it just might let my undistracted brain sort out that scene in the novel I’m working on as I fall asleep.
– Andrew Pyper’s novel The Damned comes out in February.
With the impending publication of my new novel in April, I resolve not to behave as I did with the appearance of my earlier two books. Which is to say that I will not waste up to an hour (or two) every work day, for a month (or two), Googling the book’s title, checking its ranking on Amazon, trawling for reviews, tweets, Facebook postings, “shares,” “likes,” flames, praise, Goodreads nods – any signs of life. Instead, I resolve to take a serene, Olympian stance, where I wake each morning and primly disable my WiFi so that I might spend five to six hours of monk-like, uninterrupted, focused concentration on the writing at hand. I’m positive I can live up to this resolution. And if you believe that, I’ve got some wonderful credit default swaps I’d like to sell you…
– John Colapinto’s novel An Upright Man comes out in April.
I wrote an original screenplay many years ago. A film was made from it, and my husband and I waited anxiously for the reviews on opening day. The late, great Jay Scott compared my work to Chekhov while another critic wondered in print if I had been dropped on my head at birth. When I became a novelist, I resolved to never read another review. I broke the resolution at my first opportunity and indeed have read many reviews from professional critics and readers too. Before the Internet, our reviews evaporated with the changing of the day’s newspaper or the turning of a channel or the tossing of a magazine. Now they’re available at the touch of a button. Working on a novel for five years without feedback is a challenge, and I’ll admit that when I’m feeling lonely or down I hit the Goodreads or Amazon review pages for inspiration. Bless the readers – every one of them. This year though, my resolve is firm. I will not read reviews. Maybe just the good ones.
– Lori Lansens’s novel The Mountain Story comes out in April.