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This blog was featured on 02/05/2020
Therese Anne Fowler on Perspective, Narrative & Patience
Written by
She Writes
February 2020
Written by
She Writes
February 2020

Therese Anne Fowler is the New York Times bestselling author of Z (recently adapted for television by Amazon Studios) and A Well-Behaved Woman (currently in development with Sony Pictures Television). Her brand-new contemporary novel, A Good Neighborhood, is rich with divisive issues such as race, class and religion, and is about an interracial romance nestled within a North Carolina community.

Her latest novel is a leap from her previous biographical historical novels for which fans had come to know and love Fowler. She shared with Publisher’s Weekly that after finishing A Well-Behaved Woman, she intended to continue experimenting with providing new perspectives to controversial historical figures. But everything changed when she took a close look at the state of our nation.  

“The constant bad news was really dismaying to me, and I needed to respond to my dismay, to present something about how we are backsliding in this country and turn it into a story. I don’t think I knew that was my motivation at the time; I just knew that I was compelled by these characters arising in my imagination.”

“The seeds of A Good Neighborhood took root in my brain almost of their own accord, and grew like Jack’s beanstalk. I thought, okay then, that’s the book I have to write,” the author said in an interview on her website.

On Perspective

“Every time I start a book, I spend a lot of time considering what the best narrative perspective is going to be for that particular story,” Fowler says.  

“When I began A Good Neighborhood, it was clear to me that the story also needed a broader view–but that the view, and therefore the voice of the story, should also be particular, the way it is with a first-person account.”

She began constructing the story about the collective “us” – the people we know, the people who live nearby, the people who teach our children and the people with whom we interact with daily.  

“Using the collective point of view this way makes the story personal, and the personal is always more effective at conveying a message or lesson, as the narrators here tell us they hope to do,” she said.

This excerpt was originally published on Therese Anne Fowler’s website. Read the full interview here.

On Narrative

Writing from multiple characters’ points of view, as Fowler does, can be a challenge, especially when writing across gender or centuries. Here’s what the author had to say on the topic:

“Narrative distance is one of my pet craft issues (along with point of view). The easy way to understand it is to compare it to the way film or TV directors frame their shots – from panorama to close up and every distance in between. The camera doesn’t care what gender the character is. The camera doesn’t care what year it is – or what planet it is, for that matter. The same is true for the writer.”

To minimize the distance between the reader and the character, she offers this tip:

“Eliminate what I call translation verbs, e.g. ‘she thought,’ ‘he wondered,’ etc. The less you translate for the reader, the closer to the character’s perspective you’ll be.”

This excerpt was originally published on Red Bud Writing. Read the full interview here.

On Querying

Fowler urges writers to remember that rejections are not personal.

“Often, a work just doesn't suit an agent's or editor's tastes. Much the way we each choose to read one sort of novel over another even if that other is perfectly good, the gatekeepers of publishing select what appeals to them at a visceral level.”

The most important thing writers can and should do before querying is get as much qualified advice, training and feedback about their work as they may need in order to make it publishable, she said.

“One of the most common, and most destructive, tendencies of aspiring writers is querying too soon. We feel so accomplished in simply having completed something that we naively equate finished with ready. Then when the inevitable rejections pour in, we're crushed.”

Workshops, good writers' groups or even just some really good writing instruction texts can go a long way toward shortening the rejection period, she insists.

This excerpt was originally published on WOW - Women On Writing. Read the full interview here.

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