Friday, May 24, 2013

A conversation with my editor about Hild

There's a long and meaty conversation between me and my editor, Sean McDonald, up at Farrar, Straus and Giroux's Work in Progress.

If you like to see behind the writer's curtain, this is what it looks like. One of the things I talk about is being afraid to begin, really quailing, some of the reasons for that, and what happened.
I didn’t want to write about the restrictions of gender. Domesticity makes me claustrophobic. Hearth and home are all very well, but I love an epic canvas: gold and glory, politics and plotting.
To avoid that, I was tempted to take the easy way out and make Hild so singular that the restrictions didn’t apply to her. I tried everything I could think of; at one point I even had her learn and use a sword, although in reality she might have very well have been put to death for that.
It didn’t work: History is made by real people; the rules always apply. I despaired of being able to reconcile that reality with what I wanted, what somewhere inside I knew was possible.
In the end I did what any good Anglo-Saxon would: I got drunk, laughed in the face of fear, and charged. And I discovered what poets have known for millennia, that constraint is freeing. I had nothing to lose, so I committed. The words came. It felt like magic. It was Hild’s voice.
Go read the rest. Tell me what you think.

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