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Kate Atkinson and Reagan Arthur Do Book Passage

May 6, 2013

Book PassageI spent the better part of April in San Francisco housesitting four dogs. The weather was warm and sunny, and I had a fantastic time going to museums, hiking, hearing live music, and visiting with friends, old and new. One of the highlights was hanging out at Book Passage both downtown and in Corte Madera. I met a few of the staff I knew through Twitter – Melissa and Sam – and I was thrilled to go to a reading by Kate Atkinson who was there for her new book Life After Life. (Read my review here.) Her editor and now publisher, Reagan Arthur, came with her. They were both funny and smart, but unfortunately, you won’t glean that from what follows. There was a strict policy of no recordings, and pics weren’t allowed until the event was over.

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson

When I have to take notes in longhand and don’t have the luxury of taking dozens of pics,  you get a bunch of stray soundbites out of context, and a couple of pics that leave a lot to be desired. However, what I took away from the reading and Q & A was the knowledge that Kate Atkinson is as fascinating and funny, in the dark way that I love, as her characters are in her latest novel. As far as the charismatic Reagan Arthur goes, well let’s just say that she had the audience laughing out loud with her publishing stories. I would love to have both of them at my dream dinner party someday.

This is all I got:

– Reagan Arthur loves everything about Kate. She said, “It’s hard for me to talk about Kate without gushing. If Kate writes anything, it’s amazing.”

– With regard to the beautiful blue end papers in Life After Life, Arthur said they Googled William Morris wallpaper to find one they liked. When they sent it to Kate for approval, she said it was her dining room wallpaper.

Reagan Arthur

Reagan Arthur

– Atkinson said, “I learned to write by reading others.” Indeed, she references a lot of writers in her own work, and tells aspiring writers: “You have to read everything that’s ever been written.”

– About her writing process Atkinson said, “I have to have the title first. If I don’t have a title, I can’t write the book. I rewrite the first page 100 times. I rewrite the first chapter 100 times.”

– When asked if the character Jackson Brodie would be coming back she said, “Not yet. He’s on an extended cruise. If I live long enough, he will come back.”

– Atkinson said her main character in Life After Life “suffers from an immense sense of deja vu,” which is a huge understatement.

– She does not pre-plot which is amazing given all the hopping around the characters do. Atkinson said, “I have the ability to hold the whole book in my head while I’m writing it.”

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson

– On how she became a reader/writer: “I’m an only child. Only children read a great deal. I lived in my imagination.”

– On why and when she became a writer: “I did a doctorate. I failed a doctorate. So I started writing. I never wrote a word until I was 31.”

Life After Life, Little, Brown and Company, 2013

  1. Finally got my copy back from Mama. Reading now! 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing Atkinson’s wry comments. Clearly she has a writer’s mind extraordinaire.

  3. Also, thank you for following my blog. Appreciate it.

  4. Diane’s Prokop’s Revew of Kate Atkinson’s latest book takes note of three significant writing tips offered by Atkinson. The tips are in the category of: “This is what I do when I write. You have to decide how you choose to write.” As always Diane is perceptive but not preachy in quoting Atkinson:
    l.” I learned to write by reading others.” 2. “I have to have the title first.”3. “I have the ability to hold the whole book in my head while writing.”
    Atkinson’s “writing process”, or at least that part of it she shared, is much like the reminder Montaigne shared about his “writing process”: What I offer here in my writings is not my teaching, but my study; not a lesson for others, but for myself.”
    From one writer to all of us who write, “Every little bit helps. Thanks Diane.
    Jim Dunne

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