“The Early Stages of Novel Writing Can Feel Like Pushing A Granite Boulder up A Hill,” says Jim Crace

Jim Crace
Jim Crace

Jim Crace is the multi award-winning English author of 11 books. His most recent novel Harvest, was shortlisted for the 2013 Booker Prize. His other titles include Continent, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize. Quarantine won the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Being Dead took the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award USA and was shortlisted for the Dublin Impac Award. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999.

JG. Did you have a happy childhood?

JC. I can’t remember a single moment of unhappiness – but there were periods of embarrassment and fear.

JG. When did you first become interested in writing?

JC. It still doesn’t interest me much. (You think I’m joking don’t you?)

JG. Who were your greatest influences growing up?

JC. My peaceful father, Charley, introduced me to politics, wildlife, books, art galleries and the theatre; my talkative mother – of Irish tinker descent- supplied the love, the kindness, the good humour and the catering.

JG. What’s the most difficult aspect of writing a novel?

JC. The daunting first page.

JG. What metaphor would you use to describe the writing life?

JC. The early stages of novel writing can feel like pushing a granite boulder up a hill but, thanks to the generosity of narrative itself, that boulder can turn into a helium-filled balloon, scaling the heights under its own weighlessness. But it’s not a metaphor I’d like to repeat.

JG. You have been described in the past as a non-autobiographical writer who doesn’t do introspection in his novels. Have things changed?

JC. No, people still describe me that way (but they are wrong.)

JG. Do you see your writing life as a nine-to-five job?

JC. Yes, but not a five-day week. I don’t let my work make me unsociable. So I keep the weekends, the evenings and a couple of week days free for more rewarding and more collaborative activities.

JG. What are your hobbies?

JC. Politics, wild life, walking, tennis, cycling, jazz

JG. Do you use Facebook or Twitter?

JC. No, never. But I don’t mind that other people do.

JG. Do you own a smartphone?

JC. No. Please don’t send me one. They’re too big and they’re too small, all in one go.

JG. Do you feel nostalgia for the world that has now ended? (Before the digital revolution.)

JC. Nostalgia, yes. But not regret. Could there be a more technologically exciting time than now?

JG. Do you have a favourite writing space?

JC. We’ve just moved house after 29 years of living in Birmingham, so I have a new, untested workroom which has not yet yielded a single interesting sentence. My old room was flooded with light and looked out on a street; my new one is gloomier and watches over fields, with donkeys.

JG. What’s your next project?

JC. To turn our orchard field into an appropriate garden.

JG. Do you consider yourself a lucky person?

JC. No question. Lucky and lazy.

JG. What are your impressions of Ireland?

JC. I first came to Ireland in 1963, to fish on the Shannon. I’ve visited many times since and have come to the conclusion that no life is complete unless at least a year of it is spent in Dublin or – if you want a pair of good, cheap trousers – Cork.

JG. What gem of wisdom would you give to emerging/aspiring writers?

JC. Take risks.

Jim Crace will be interviewed by author and journalist Martina Devlin at 2.30pm on Friday 30th May at St John’s Theatre. For more information, or to book, please click here

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