The Dublin Book Festival team had a virtual Q&A this week with debut author and rising star, Marianne Lee, who has just released her first book, A Quiet Tide, a fictionalised account of the life of Irish botanist and feminist icon, Ellen Hutchins.
Marie Daly: What do you do to combat writers’ block?
ML: Remind myself that the act of writing is a creative process that should involve some degree of pleasure. It’s always hard work, but needs to flow from a natural, relaxed state. On the practical side: I find turning off the screen and writing with a pencil and paper often helps if I get stuck. I’ll write in an environment I’m not used to: a different room, the garden, or a café. Or I’ll think of a song, or painting, that captures what I’m trying to achieve, and channel that!
Harriet O’Connor: Have you any advice or tips for writing historical fiction?
ML: Characters are more important than the setting.
We don’t notice that which is familiar to us, so only describe details that might be unusual, new, particular or remarkable to your character. Always think from the perspective of your character, be they a ten-year old boy or sixty-year old woman.
No matter how much we learn about the past, it will always be unknown, outside our experience. Try and create some of that magic and mystery in your prose. Small details will illuminate your fictional historical world and captivate the reader: a piece of jewellery, how a dress buttons, smells from the kitchen.
For dialogue, avoid too many period colloquialisms: add sparingly as a flavour. If using an unusual word or phrase, check that it was actually in use at the time (easy to do online). And even though it can be done with great effect, don’t use modern slang unless you’re very confident you know what you’re doing!
Marianne Lee can be found on Twitter @ThisMarianneLee and on Instagram @marianneleedublin
#AskanAuthor is an initiative at the Dublin Book Festival that encourages our audience to pose questions to the authors at DBF 2020. We may be going digital but we want to make sure that our audience don’t miss out on direct engagement with the authors.
You are invited to submit questions to each week’s chosen author via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Email. Create a tweet or post containing your question and include the hashtag #AskAnAuthor. Alternatively, you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with #AskAnAuthor in the subject line.