Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we talked with Deborah Court about her writing and her novel, Summer’s Lie, the debut installment in Maggie Dunn Books (read review here).
Deborah Court is a retired professor of education, the author of two novels (a third is half finished, and a fourth is germinating), two academic books and dozens of academic articles. She loves, in no particular order, poetry, palindromes, the English language, her family, dogs and hiking.
She is NOT that other Deborah Court, writer of fantasy, paranormal and erotic romance.
Deborah Court (this one) was born in Toronto, grew up in Vancouver, and has lived in Israel for the past twenty-five years. She would love to hear from you at her website:
You can visit Deborah Court’s Amazon page at https://www.amazon.com/author/dcourt
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have two self-published novels (on Amazon), with a third on the way, as well as two academic books published by Routledge in London.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both, absolutely! It can be as exhausting, frustrating and demanding as any other work, but when the writing flows, when the writer reads back what s/he had written and feels the magic of the words, there is nothing like it.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
The best books are always going to come from authentic stories that the writer wants, and even needs, to tell. Originality means that the story came from the writer’s unique imagination. Together with that, a writer who wants to please readers and sell books should of course shape an original, authentic story in ways that readers will enjoy. I have been told, for instance, that sometimes my sentences are too long. I happen to love complex sentences. I adore the infrequent and correct use of the semi-colon. But having received that feedback, I have been attentive to splitting complex sentences into two when that can be done without hurting the message a sentence conveys. I have also been told that people love my descriptions, of people’s appearance, and of places, that those descriptions bring the reader deeper into the story and make him or her feel like s/he is really there. As a result of that feedback, I have been giving even more attention to description.
What is your favorite childhood book?
It’s hard to pick one. Both my parents read to my sister and me from the time we were babies, and we both became writers. I loved the Narnia books, and I loved a quirky little book called Tadger tales. I also loved the original Mary Poppins books, written by P.L. Travers, long before Disney got hold of poor Mary and Disney-fied her. In the original books there is no sweetness about Mary Poppins, none. She is a prune-faced, no-nonsense, stern nanny, a little bit scary, which does not make her magic any less magical – quite the contrary.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Getting started, every day, and working through the minor details of plot. Sitting down in the morning and writing the first sentence, the first paragraph, always requires taking myself by the scruff of the neck. It gets better from there. And in terms of plot, working out the minor plotlines and making the pieces all fit together requires great attention. Sometimes as a story develops, tiny details may change, and I have to go back and be sure I haven’t created unintentional contradictions. Once a scene is flowing and the characters are becoming as real as any people I have ever known, there’s no fulfilment like it.
Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
The idea for this trilogy (Summer’s Lie, When Bodies Fall and The Reason for Time) started, I think, with my own general, rather diffuse sadness about getting older. The main character in the trilogy becomes thirty years younger. This turns out to be neither easy nor completely pleasant for her. Rather, it presents many challenges. Age and aging are complex aspects of the human experience, and the books in the trilogy explore this.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Not a complete question! The question needs to be, which is more important, writing, characters or plot? Aristotle is said to have given plot precedence over character, at least in Greek tragedy. According to Aristotle, character precedes plot, because plot means action, and action requires people, but plot is ultimately the soul of the tragedy. I do not write tragedy, but in general fiction writing, I would put plot last! First is high quality writing, the kind that makes the reader stop on a sentence sometimes, just for the beauty or wit of the sentence. Character is second. Characters can never be brought to life, can never become real, unless they are well written. Plot is last. Of course we want to read a book with an interesting plot, but clumsily written books with cardboard characters cannot propel a plot. There are an awful lot of plot-driven books today. I don’t read them.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
Can I answer a slightly different question? My favorite character that I have created is Detective Inspector Jack Wallace, the wily Scottish Detective in my second book, When Bodies Fall. I love that man. I actually fell in love with him. (My husband doesn’t know.)
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
The sense that they have just finished a very good book, and the desire to read my next one!
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
There is no question that some aspects of my childhood are expressed in Summer’s Lie.
How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
I believe in family, in friendship, in the search for God (no particular path is preferred), in sexual modesty, in celebrating creativity and in seeking meaning and simple happiness. These certainly inform my writing.
Categories: BookView Review Interview