Lorrie Moore reviews some recent memoirs: "People are telling us their personal stories and speaking to us of their private lives and even if the structure is rickety and the prose has, to borrow Dick Cavett’s phrase, “all the sparkle of a second mortgage,” we are going to hang in there because it is true. That the facts and details of these jumbled confessions are occasionally fudged and embellished, however, seems inevitable, given the limits of memory and the demands of writing. (There are many things a storyteller must add and subtract to tell a good story.)"
George Saunders interviewed: "I’d make the case that the whole fictional thrill has to do with this idea of the reader and the writer closely tracking, if you will. Like one of those motorcycle sidecars: when the writer leans left, the reader does too. You don’t want your reader three blocks away, unaware that you are leaning. You want her right there with you, so that even an added comma makes a difference. And I think building that motorcycle has to do with that very odd moment when the writer “imagines” his reader—i.e., imagines where the reader “is” at that precise point in the story. This is more of a feeling thing than an analytical thing, but all that is good about fiction depends on this extrapolation. Which is pretty insane, when you think of it. The writer, in order to proceed, is theoretically trying to predict where his complex skein of language and image has left his reader, who he has likely never met and who is actually thousands of readers. Yikes! Better we should do something easier, like join the circus."
I gobbled up Cassie's City of Fallen Angels in one blissful day. She just keeps getting better and better, and really, writers, if you aren't reading her, you should be. I can't think of anyone better at continually raising the stakes for her characters, both internally and externally. Her spoiler/answer post is worth your time and is full of excellent thoughts: "Authors tend to torment the characters they love, not the characters they don't care about. Characters must want and love and suffer for them to feel real. Like real people, characters reveal themselves through suffering—it is under pressure that your true self comes to the forefront." (And, um, post is obviously full of spoilers, so don't read it if you haven't read the book and care about being spoiled.)
So, I recently read Franny Billingsley's Chime (my review will be in an upcoming issue of Locus), and became obsessed with it (totally brilliant), and with reading all her interviews about it: Horn Book, Goodreads (by Libba Bray), and PW. You must read this book, and all these interviews are well worth reading too; I particularly liked what she had to say about geography informing mythology in the PW interview: "Once I found a geography, I could write it. I think that for some people geography is not so important, but for me, and for a lot of fantasy writers, the geography absolutely has to make sense in terms of the magical context or else you just can't go anyplace."
Is there anyone who doesn't adore Colson Whitehead and think he's brilliant and hilarious? Case in point: his recent essay for PW: "There are those who moan, oh, Shakespeare wouldn't have written all those wonderful plays for us to "modern update" if he'd had Angry Birds and Darklady.com. Is it so terrible, here in the 21st century? A sonnet is perfect Tumblr-length, and given the persistent debates over the authorship of his work, the bard would have benefited from modern, cutting-edge identity theft protection. The old masters didn't even have freaking penicillin. I think Nietzsche would have endured non-BCC'd e-mail dispatches in exchange for pills to de-spongify his syphilitic brain, and we can all agree Virginia Woolf could've used a scrip for serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I digress. The Internet is not to blame for your unfinished novel: you are." Read the whole thing. I'd share a lukewarm white wine in the throes of trade show despair with him anytime.