Shelves: fiction , hidden-gems , the-power-of-love , just-like-a-woman , women-writers , wheres-the-bedroom , hey-shorty , not-by-a-white-guy Every once and awhile, after reading something or several things really thoughtful or heavy, or that I just feel take a lot of reading energy, I like to pick up some fluff that I know I can blow through in a day or two. I saw Eat Me at a thrift store and it seemed like a decent sensational read, sort of pushing it from a foreign and more risque "Sex and the City" angle though I think this may have come out first - four friends trying to find love, lots of sex talk, etc. I have to say, Every once and awhile, after reading something or several things really thoughtful or heavy, or that I just feel take a lot of reading energy, I like to pick up some fluff that I know I can blow through in a day or two. There are four lady friends, and they all date around, deal with new boyfriends, exes, overlapping dating, etc. Some of it is genuinely pretty hot, but more of it is also just laughable.
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Valerie Wow. So, did you have to do a lot additional research for your book? Linda Oh yeah, tons of research. Some of the books that I needed were on my shelf, some of the books were in the ANU Menzies library, which is one the better Asian studies libraries in Australia. She was the daughter of an American politician, of a millionaire, but beyond that her past was never explored. So, I did research. Things like she was seduced by a Doctor Jack Fee in a restaurant called the Hens and Chickens, or Poultry, or something.
How do you get seduced in a restaurant; Poultry? You know? I wanted to know everything about her, and I wanted to know how to unlock the secrets of what she told Morrison and Morrison recorded in his diary. So, that took me to Oakland, California, and the Californian State Historical Archives, and biographies of wild women in San Francisco at the turn of the century, and so on and so forth. I did a lot of research.
I also realized I knew almost next to nothing about the Russo Japanese War. So, I had to go back very seriously into research on Morrison, because even though I had read two biographies- I reread the first biography. I read his letters again. I wanted to get a good handle on his language and his thinking.
When he mentioned in his diaries- I read his diaries for several years. He kept very detailed diaries. I read those diaries. I took notes on the way he spoke. And, I did. I found a print in England, and got it shipped over, to understand, and that gave me an insight. So, I have a little bit of fun with that book, because I realized I had to think about why he thought it was the most immoral book.
I did tons of research around every aspect of the story behind A Most Immoral Woman. I did Russo Japanese War. The municipal archives were wonderful there. They opened their doors to me. I mean I had no idea he was in the story, really. I came across a book that was a biography of Lionel James, I got that by an Irishmen. So, the research was phenomenal really. But, it was great, and it was fun.
Valerie Obviously you enjoyed it. So, what period of time lapsed between that light bulb moment, and when you actually put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard? What kind of research period was that? And, did you do all the research first before you thought you could write the story? I did a significant- the light bulb moment was in I was working on Infernal Optimist.
I really like the Infernal Optimist. But, I was working on that, and very involved with it when this light bulb went off.
So, what I would do is just work on the research, think about it, begin some research notebooks, begin thinking, but my head was mostly in the Infernal Optimist. People want to know very cleanly how much time did it take to research.
I was probably more writing it for three years, or something like that. Valerie You also write plays, you travel, you do work in academia. Valerie So how in the world do you fit it all in, or juggle it? Do you actually have sort of a strict schedule that you do this then, and this then? How do you fit it all in? I really do feel very proud of myself when I can work on one project for a couple of hours without thinking of another one.
Valerie I thought you were going to say a couple of weeks. Linda Are you kidding? I wish. Linda Oh, yes, yes. I realized I was really focused on that. I love it when I can just focus on one project. I did have that with that. I think my life has become a bit fractured recently. Valerie Right. It reminded me that I need to focus. Part of that is also too many deadlines all coming in at the same time.
Valerie Yes. Linda One of the things that I think is very important for writers to manage a little bit better than I usually, because I think sleep is really, really a great thing. I just do chords and things like that.
I have two little Beatles songs that I play really badly. Oh, and Love is in the Air, which I play rather badly as well, but am enjoying. Exercise where I just go out and I walk, and I try to stay in the present moment. So, why did you decide to do that book, which was a little bit different from your usual material? Linda I had wanted to do a China book for a long time, of course, and that book it was necessary to write for a number of reasons. He was one of my best friends and also a major figure in the Chinese world.
He was at one point a household name for like a billion people. His whole story was in some ways reflective of- in the way a mirror is not life, but it reflects life. There was so many things that fascinated me about this best friend of mine, and I had a unique insight into his life. Then he began involved in Tiananmen in , and there was something that happened that created a massive scandal throughout the Chinese world.
I was one of the very, very few people, and I was the only person, actually, who was not in a Chinese prison at the time who could clear his name. Is it hard not to get that sort of sense of satisfaction when a book takes so much longer? How do you switch hats also between writing something that is very self-contained and very succinct versus something that can take five years?
Linda I think for me I need both, because there is a sense of huge satisfaction when something is finished. My steam escapes into various forms while the stew is cooking in the pressure cooker. Everybody works differently. I really, really love working in different forms. That includes translations as well as everything else. They just come. They just happen.
Linda I have the opera, for which the libretto is finished, but still may need work. I do- what else am I doing? Valerie Oh my God! Who want to write books?
Linda Do it. Do it. I think workshops are great. I think people should go and take workshops. I never studied writing from the time I was excluded from that high school class. I think your best teachers will always be books.
I hate to say it. Not everybody is going to be a great writer. You can graduate with a PhD in creative writing and you might not be a great writer, and you can take as many workshops as you want and you might never get that novel finished.
And if you read a lot you will know what good writing is. Valerie So the bottom line really is read, analyze and just do it. Linda Yes, and if you started to do it and run into problems, take workshops or get advice. Make sure you get a good manuscript assessor. I mean how do you fight them?
Linda Jaivin: Best-selling author of Eat Me