a dreadful fascination

A few [not entirely precise] quotes from today’s International Festival of Authors event in Uxbridge, hosted by Blue Heron Books, where authors Jane Johnson and Laura Lippman were in lively conversation with Siri Agrell, and where the vibe was very living room, casual and writerly. The only thing missing was wine.

But, given that it was a brunch, this can be forgiven.
In no particular order, a few gems…

On writing the opposite gender and why women are better at it than men:

—The prey knows the predator better than the predator knows the prey. –Laura Lippman

—It’s less urgent for men to understand women. Historically, few men have had a female boss, for instance. —Jane Johnson

—Women have been learning to read faces since they lived in caves and stayed in groups, tending the fire, while men were out hitting things over the head. — Jane Johnson

On the secrets to success:

—Luck is what makes a book work. – Jane Johnson (meaning that’s the one thing the writer can’t control so if it doesn’t always hit the mark, don’t take it personally)

—We only make mistakes when we’re so sure we know something and don’t bother checking. – Laura Lippman

—Write a good sentence and move on. – Laura Lippman quoting Rebecca Lee

On characters:

—I once had a character change gender in the middle of a first draft. – Laura Lippman [her point, to keep writing, it’s a detail, deal with it later; first drafts are meant to allow the ‘barefoot wild child’ to just write without thinking…]

—A writer inhabits all her characters, the good and the bad ones. This is our empathy with humanity. – Jane Johnson

On process:

—When I start writing, I may know the beginning, middle and end of a book, but it’s how I get from one to the other that makes it live. – Jane Johnson

—What starts a book? A dreadful fascination. – Jane Johnson

—The danger is you can edit the life out of anything. – Jane Johnson

On publishing:

—The industry likes people who know what it is to work in an office. [versus the kookie eccentric ‘artiste’ type] – Laura Lippman