MacLehose Press

Jane Urquhart On Writing Sanctuary Line

There is a great post on the Brighton Blogger’s blog today – Jane Urquhart writing about how the subject for her latest novel, Sanctuary Line, found her rather than the other way round.


One of the things that has always delighted me about writing novels is how astonished the author herself can sometimes be by the way a novel is conceived or by the way it ends. In an early novel, The Underpainter, for example, I was completely surprised and taken aback toward the conclusion of the first draft by what my male protagonist ultimately decided to do. And, yet, once I got over the shock, I realized that his act of unkindness was completely in character. It was about this time that I began to understand that I was writing about the world the way it is, not the way I want it to be, and that I would have to allow my characters to be themselves… not just an extensions of my own personality.

Once again in Sanctuary Line the end of the book was initially as much a surprise to me, the writer, as it has been for many readers. Writing is a very visual experience for me; I actually “see” what is going on while I am working. I knew that one more character would be entering the book in the final section , but the man I visualized stepping out of the car and walking down the lane was very different from the man my narrator had been building in her imagination, and different, therefore, from the man I had been expecting. This, of course, speaks to the unreliability of narrative, and especially the unrealistic and often negative fantasy dramas that we watch in our own inner theatres when we, like Liz my main character, are unhappy. Liz has just lost her beloved cousin Mandy in Afghanistan. Mandy was an officer and military strategist who was involved in a difficult love affair, and Liz, who has never met Mandy’s lover, begins to believe that he is the full personification of everything cruel, rigid, and brutal about military life. She quotes Sylvia Plath in her mind — “the brute, brute, heart of a brute like you” — and interprets his reported magnetism as the behaviour of a manipulator. In the end, she is surprised to discover that the actual man is utterly unlike her own demonized version.

Read on with the Brighton Blogger . . .

 

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