this also turned out to be a time in which women were beginning to think that perhapsthey need not be entirely dependent on men. In fact, that they might require somethingother than a husband and children to fulfill themselves. This is the period in which KateChopin wrote
and Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote
.Q: Some writers outline meticulously before they begin; others start with something aslimited as a single image and see where it takes them. Where do you fall in thatcontinuum?
A: For me, an outline takes all the life out of it, but I’m afraid to start without some senseof the world I’m going into, because I know how much time I can waste.
The Edge of the Earth
, as I said, started with the place
I knew when I saw it that there was a story in itfor me; I just had to look until I found it. I had the idea of the place in mind for a couple
of months and was toying with some characters that I couldn’t quite grasp. It wasn’t until
I went to Big Sur and explored the area around the lighthouse for a few weeks that themain character
emerged for me, sort of like a bubble rising to the top of myswamp-like brain. Her situation arrived with her
the idea that she would have come tothis place from Milwaukee, a city I know well, with a husband who would, like the place,
turn out to be different from what she’d expected. At that point, I plunged in and started
writing. I tend to write, very haltingly but steadily, pretty much in what I think will be
the order of the book (although it doesn’t always stay that way). As I go along,
fragments, which can be images or pleasing phrases, come spontaneously into my mindand usually I can use these fragments in some way
I think this is evidence of my
unconscious mind at work and I’m grateful for it. Inevitably, this process carries me
thirds of the way through, and then I crash and realize I don’t really have a
story and despair and have to rethink and unravel. Those are probably the most hideousmonths, but then I figure out what my story really is and the revisions, while probably thehardest work are also the most satisfying.Q: How many hours do you write a day?A: Not enough. My work habits are deplorab
le; I’m very undisciplined
, especiallyduring the initial creation stage. Every day I vow to begin as soon as my son goes toschool, but then there are dogs to walk and cat litter to empty and a kitchen to clean upand email to answer and more coffee to make.
However, I’ll always write before folding
Then I’ll just be getting going
have to stop to go to an appointment or do a long overdue errand, which I then carry out in a very distracted way, because half my mind is still in the book
. On the other hand, I’m always chipping away at it; I’ll takemy computer along when I know I’ll have an hour to wait somewhere, for instance. It’s
really the worst of all worlds
—I’m never working really hard but I’m never not working
Also, when I’m fe
der a lot of pressure, I’ll keep this up until
late at night, which
is pretty unpleasant. On the other hand, once I’m revising I can concentrate for eight
hours at a stretch, take a short break and dive right back in, day after day. I
that Ihave access to a big chunk of consecutive hours like that, but when it happens, I barelyeven need to eat.