The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 6, 2013

Novelists mystical about process

(Continued)

ST PETER —

“I really feel it’s a story I wanted to tell.”

Maltman said to ensure period authenticity he pored over settlers’ journals and fashioned a chart listing the detailed everyday stuff of life that informed pioneers’ existence.

On whether they determine a book’s main characters before they begin writing:

Geye: “In my mind I call it giving the characters a biography, but I’m never beholden to it.”

Maltman: “In the beginning the characters are blurry to you, and then they emerge, like a Polaroid photo.”

On abandoning a book’s characters who don’t become clear to a writer:

Maltman: “Sometimes, for a character who’s not serving any purpose in a story, you just X them out.”

On the role editors play:

Hart: “When you’re writing a crime novel, what you find is that editors want a character in jeopardy on every single page.”

Geye, whose editor showed him how less was more by whittling his lengthy manuscript: “It was a supreme education ... the book became better and better by getting rid of that first layer of fat.”

On whether authors become famous through luck or skill:

Hart: “Skill at being popular is different than the skill of writing.”

Maltman, alluding to Robert James Waller’s “The Bridges of Madison County,” which was hugely popular but panned by critics: “He had a good story, but the author was a great marketer.”

More than 60 area authors and several representatives of publishing firms took part in Saturday’s event.

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