A rich, informative essay collection based on interviews with 20 prominent authors seeking to answer the question: "Why do writers write?"
Whether as an avocation or a profession, writing "promises only poverty, rejection and self-doubt,” writes veteran book critic and author Maran (A Theory of Small Earthquakes, 2012, etc.). As the editor points out, however, this fact does not stop people from writing and trying to publish their manuscripts, only 1 percent of which will ever see print. So what drives individuals to engage in this constantly frustrating endeavor? Maran posed the question to writers who seemed to have what every writer could ever want: “[m]illions or billions of fans worldwide . . . [and] full creative freedom.” Isabelle Allende and David Baldacci write from an obsessive need to tell stories. Kathryn Harrison explains that “it’s the only thing I know that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of love.” Armistead Maupin writes that “it’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.” Maran’s subjects include authors who have received both popular and critical acclaim, and she includes details about how each author found a place in the literary sun. She also delves into how they approach the task of recording their stories and presents their writing tips. The wisdom these luminaries offer sometimes, and perhaps inevitably, borders on the obvious or banal: “You have to simply love writing,” writes Susan Orleans. But more often than not, that wisdom is as sharp-eyed and candid as Sue Grafton’s observation that “[b]anging out a single book, then thinking you’re ready to give up your day job and be a full-time writer, is the equivalent of learning to play ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the piano and then expecting to be booked into Carnegie Hall.”
A fun, enlightening read for writers and book lovers alike.