Wednesday, 16 October 2019

‘With every book you are beginning again’

Faber Proof Party, Festival Hub

“FREE books on a Saturday afternoon,” said Stephanie Cross, chairing the Faber Proof Party. “What could be better?”

Other than the discussion itself, perhaps. Julianne Pachico, author of The Anthill, due to be published in May 2020, and Ingrid Persaud, author of Love After Love, due to be published in April 2020, gave a lively discussion about all things book- and writing-related.

To start, Pachico read from her novel. It was an engaging, quick-fire passage which showed, in just a few minutes, how the violence of Colombia is interwoven with the everyday lives of the young people who live there.

It was terrifying. I sat, with her book in my hand, desperate to read it cover to cover.

Persaud followed with a reading from Love After Love, which really captured the essence of Trinidad. We were transported there and the characters, although we only met them briefly, spoke to us, invited us in. We wanted to know more.

Both the readings, and indeed the books, have a strong sense of place and this is something important to both writers.

Pachico said she likes to soak up the sights and sounds of the place to recreate it, and having lived in Colombia for the first 18 years of her life, it is evident through her writing that it is part of her and she is sharing it with us.

Persaud agreed that the details of place have to be exact and she said that she writes through memory — she was born in Trinidad — backed up with knowledge from Google Maps.

With the writing of place so exact, you might worry that the characters are lacking but that is far from the truth. The voices in both novels are strong and real.

Persaud said she “falls in love with her characters” and that their voices come first, while Pachico nodded in agreement.

Both writers are skilled storytellers and that is evident from the accolades they have collected throughout their careers so far.

Pachico has an MA in creative writing from UEA and now teaches on the same programme at the university, while Persaud won the BBC National Short Story competition.

In fact, both novelists are successful short story writers and The Anthill actually grew from a short story.

Neither writer believes the short story is simply a training ground for the novel though. They are an art all of their own, they sharpen the mind.

As Persaud said, the short story is a sprint and the novel a marathon. There is luxury in the expanse of the novel, added Pachico, but the short story allows for more subtext and implication. A short story is a moment in time, they both agreed.

Both writers cherish the craft of writing and they discussed the benefits of writing courses and degrees.

For some people, Pachico believes, they are very helpful, giving structure and deadlines. For others, not really.

Persaud did not study writing, she first studied law and then fine art and eventually writing found her, thankfully.

In conclusion, they said that hard work is more important than talent, or any course.

Writing is a challenge and you need to work at it. When asked by Stephanie Cross, if it gets easier with each story, or book, they both laughed.

Julianne said “with every book you are beginning again,” and as the event finished, we were left hoping she is right, that they will give us more stories and write more books.

Laura Healy

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