Well, I’ve moved, but I still have no internet (why is it not seen as an essential service like water? I need it much more than TV, for example. One day, soon…) so my blogging ramblings will continue sporadic and whimsical. After I wrote last time about Clary from the Cazalet series, I started thinking how much I love books about writers. I’ve heard a few people say, rather snottily, that writers shouldn’t write about other writers. That’s one of those so-called rules of writing, up there with ‘no present tense’, ‘no prologues’, and ‘no waking-up first scenes’. These rules really irritate me. We can all think of examples where books break them and are still brilliant. The bottom line is, you can do anything in fiction, so long as it is good. And I’ve personally always enjoyed reading good books about writers.
But when I sat down to list some of my favourites fictional writers (not writers of fiction, although Google doesn’t understand that distinction it seems), I found myself a bit stumped. The list I did come up with is also rather heavily weighted to children’s fiction – are children’s writers less afraid of the ‘don’t write about writers’ rule? (I mean, who’s the boss of these, really?) I hope future writers don’t get hung up on this stupid rule. I’m sure it was these characters who first introduced me to the idea of actually putting one word after another.
My favourite fictional books and writers (aside from the afore-mentioned Clary Cazalet):
Ruth Cole in John Irving’s A Widow for One Year. I love the idea that everyone in this book is a writer one way or another, and the insight into the creative process as Ruth researches a book in Amsterdam (which goes very awry). John Irving is clearly not afraid to break the rules, as Garp in The World According to Garp is a writer too, and I would also love to read some of his fictional works (Garp, that is).
Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery. When you read this book as an aspiring writer, it’s likely you’re thinking ‘Wow, I’d love to be that famous’. But Paul’s greatest fan exacts her dues in some rather horrific ways. Stephen King is another who has written about writers in several books – Bill in It, Jack in The Shining (a failed writer), Mike in Bag of Bones….and they are all brilliant. In Misery we’re treated to parts of Paul’s series about the character ‘Misery,’ who he longs to kill off, a book that his mad captor burns, and the one he writes when he escapes – Fast Cars. The fact I can still remember the name shows me how much I learned from this book about the creative process.
Jo March in Little Women – Jo isn’t the only writer to have made up plays and forced her family and friends to appear in them, of course. I loved reading about someone who did the same mad things as me, like write thinly-veiled homages to whatever you were reading at the time. Although it is sort of annoying how starry-eyed she is when the Professor disses her work in the next book (I’d never have married him after that).
Emily Starr in Emily of New Moon, by L M Montgomery – In some ways I preferred this series to the more-famous Anne books. Emily was sort of irritating– everyone was in love with her, she was partially psychic, and a brilliant writer to boot – but I loved the interaction between her and her curmudgeonly schoolmaster, who read her first poetic attempts and then said she had only 50 good lines in all her work. When Emily cried, he said that 50 good lines at her age was pretty good. We all need a firm and wise editor! Emily’s first book was called A Seller of Dreams and the next something like Meet the Applegates? Her family used to make amusing comments like, ‘I hate your heroine, I can’t women with green eyes’ etc. Good times.
Master of Murder – this was a Point Horror book by Christopher Pike about a teenager who had a secret identify as a massively bestselling author everyone was reading. Well, I was totally sold on the idea of this. I still am, to be honest…One day.
Laura Shane in Dean Koontz’s Lightning – I’m thinking of this as a children’s book but obviously it’s not. I just had an understanding mother who let me read whatever I liked (but not watch anything risqué on telly). I’m not a big horror fan but it’s a great story, and I loved the bit where Laura’s first book was auctioned off for millions and squillions (we can dream…) It also has a timeslip theme and Laura had written different books in each reality. Well worth a read.
I can’t think of any more, but these fictional writers and their fictional books have inspired me from I first began reading, given me the first spark of an idea that maybe I could do it, too. Perhaps one day I’ll write one of my own, ignoring the rules!
PS Just remember another – the hilarious Adrian Mole, with his opuses Longing for Wolverhampton and Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland. Speaking for every angsty teen who ever put pen to paper in a depressed regional town.