Why and how I write: a blog chain

Writer and priest, Ted Witham, has asked me to carry on a chain-blog. Ted’s post can be found here, giving interesting insight into his writing process. I think a walk along the beach first thing is a splendid idea, though would be a bit hard for me. I’m also looking forward to his feature article on Dorothea Angus.

What am I working on at the moment?

As readers of this blog know, I’m working on a biography of the early life of Katharine Susannah Prichard. I have a new title this week, taken from chapter two: “The Memory of a Storm: The Making of Katharine Susannah Prichard, 1883-1919”. It’s a phrase from her book The Wild Oats of Han, but it also refers nicely back to her autobiography, Child of the Hurricane, the foundation for my book.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Funnily enough, at the moment I’m more attempting to emulate two masters of my genre, Hazel Rowley and Claire Tomalin. Like them, I’m hoping to write a biography which has taken techniques from fiction to create a gripping, beautiful narrative, grounded in research.

I’ve also recently finished rewriting a novel, “The Remains.” For literary fiction, I’d say it has a strong narrative drive. For better and worse, I’m quite a bare-bones writer, and my prose is probably transparent – aspiring, in that sense, after Paul Auster, whose prose, I seem to recall, Lionel Shriver called, none-too-kindly, “lemonade.”

Why do I write what I do?

On the negative side, I started writing biography because fiction had become painful for me. I didn’t want my next project to be constructing a story from scratch, from the interior. On the positive side, I started writing biography because I’m fascinated by the past and the traces people have left. It seems a gallant and worthy thing to remember them, to revivify them in a small way.

How does my writing/creative process work?

Unlike writing fiction, writing biography, of course, has been starting with weeks of intensive research for each chapter. I’m finding that I reach a fertile point where I want (need!) to start writing as a way of processing all I’ve been reading, and the weaving of sources and story begins.

Over to you

Dear readers, I invite you to answer the same questions in your own blog post. Any volunteers for tagging? Leave a comment!

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About Nathan Hobby

At work on a biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard for a PhD at the University of Western Australia. Also a novelist and librarian. View all posts by Nathan Hobby

4 responses to “Why and how I write: a blog chain

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