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“I love what I do and the world is full of stories, so there is always something to write about.” Isabel Allende
When literary luck comes our way, it’s a gift, isn’t it? I had a lovely dose recently when I had a chance to hear the feisty, prolific novelist Isabel speak. What a career she’s had: 75 million books in print in 27 languages! She’s currently out and about on a tour for her 24th book, A Long Petal of the Sea – at 77, she’s still going strong. Highlights:
On writing: “What really makes it happen is sitting in front of the computer days, weeks, and months – that’s what does it… Sometimes, the answers just come. The House of Spirits, my first book, was dictated by my grandmother. This story [A Long Petal of the Sea] fell into my lap and it wrote itself…. I fictionalize reality. I take from real life and turn it into fiction.”
On life itself: “My life has been up and down – tragedy, comedy, drama. My life has been marked by sharp turns that were completely beyond my control… Always displaced, a military coup in Chile, my daughter died, my divorces… The only control I could have was how I reacted.”
On why she writes: “I just love to tell a story — stories about relationships. I don’t have a message or an intention. I don’t want to preach anything… I’m not giving readers anything they don’t already have: what is in the book is already inside the readers… This is where I tap into the collective memory – the things that we humans have done or should have done…. I don’t write with anything in mind. I start with a dark space and a candle to light the space. What my characters do is beyond my control. I don’t know the ending.”
On starting a new book: “I still have the same fear when I start a new book – that I won’t be able to do it. I don’t have the confidence that I should have from all the book’s I’ve written…. I try to write for many hours. It’s like dancing. If I interrupt, it’s like breaking the rhythm, so I try to write as many hours as possible.”
On hitting roadblocks: “I get discouraged a lot. I am writing a scene and I don’t like it. I feels flat, artificial… The best advice I eve got was cut, cut, cut. Don’t think that because you have invested a lot of time in a scene, it has to be there.”
On what matters most:“ I feel full of life – I’m younger and happier. I’m grateful. Being surrounded with love and warmth – that’s happiness…. I live without fear…. What I know for sure is that the only thing that really matters is love.”
Bravo, Isabel — write on!
Thanks for this Karin! I had a ticket to hear her but Andy and I ended up sneaking up to Maine for a getaway. I love what Allende said about collective memory.
See you soon, Lisa
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Thanks so much for your note — so glad you enjoyed this post! Isabel is really a write who follows her intuition — a wonderful reminder for all of us in the creative arts. Hope Maine was lovely
and not too frosty!