The last entry of my “authors who are better than me” series ends with Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. She was visiting the Pordenone, Italy Book Fair and I had a chance to talk to her.
She is, of course, well known for such excellent works as “Caleb’s Crossing” and “Year of Wonder.” Her Pulitzer was for “March,” where she took the character of the absent father from Luisa May Alcott’s classic “Little Women.” Brooks follows March as he leaves home to support the cause of the Union in the American Civil War. I guess I don’t have to say much other than Pulitzer.
She was here announcing the release of the Italian version of her most recent work, “The Secret Chord.” It tells the story of King David of Israel as told by his long-time advisor and seer, Natan. One of the things that makes her interpretation so fascinating is she peels away the version of a superman and presents David as a normal person with ambition, greed and many vices.
She said she wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the women in David’s life. Batsheva, for example. “She was a victim, not a seductress. In that time, it is not believable that a woman could refuse the advances of the King.” In fact it was her desire to repaint the story of his wives that drew her to write “The Secret Chord.”
Because the novel I am working on now is Historical Fiction, I was anxious to ask her when she knew it was time to stop doing research and start doing the writing. Her answer makes perfect sense to me as a writer. “Let the story tell you what you need to know. Resist stuffing in extra facts whether the story needs them or not. When you are writing it, you will know what is necessary.”
As I said, it makes perfect sense to me, but actually doing that has been the challenge. Having talked to her about it has given me new energy – and writing it has restarted! Thank you, Geraldine Brooks.
By the way, I think “The Secret Chord” is a terrific novel. Plenty of it is uncomfortable to read, but David was a man, and we all have an idea what that means. Read it.