It's Wednesday, it's Hump Day and today it's Julie Bozza's turn for the hot seat…
What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?
Interesting question! This is definitely something I thought about, though perhaps not as clearly as I should, when writing my novel The Fine Point of His Soul about Keats, Byron, the Shelleys, and their friends. The story was an ‘alternate history’ but I tried to stay as true as I could to my understanding of who the characters each were. I did a lot of reading and research, and put a great deal of thought into it – all in an effort to feel I’d earned the opportunity to at least give it a try.
I felt very humble about daring to tackle such a subject, especially as I sincerely think John Keats was about the best person who has ever lived. I suppose for the writer it comes down to finding the right balance between courage on one hand, and humility on the other.
Ultimately, the thought that reassured me was that when we are writing about people who (once upon a time) really lived – and whether or not we are writing fiction or non-fiction – we are always dealing with our own subjective understandings of them. My Keats biographer of choice back then was Andrew Motion. I don’t pretend to have anything like his intellect or creativity, but we were both interested in trying to understand Keats as a person, and we were both doing that through the medium of our writing. Interestingly enough, he also wrote a short ‘alternate history’ novel about Keats!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
My self-doubt. It shrivels me up and dries me out. There’s another part of me that actually loves what I write, and even takes great joy in re-reading it. When I’m trying to create, however, you can guess which of those energies is the loudest.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I tend to only have one serious work-in-progress on the go at any given time, though there’s always a list of possible future projects, and I’m usually mentally preparing for whatever I’ve decided is next.
Unfortunately the current work-in-progress is involving heaps of research, and comes with a larger dose of self-doubt than usual, so I can certainly see the merits in trying to also have something a little less challenging on the backburner that you can turn to.
By now, I have mostly published my older efforts that were dust-gathering in the bottom drawer for many years. There are two unfinished novels there still, but I suspect they are a bit too outdated by now to really fly. So much has changed in the past twenty-five years! I don’t think readers today really want to read about the clueless and/or closeted people I was writing about back then. It felt like the reality at the time, but just seems too sad and tawdry now!
What is the first book that made you cry?
There was this novel I read as a kid, which just devastated me. It was an adventure, starting with a shipwreck on the coast of Cornwall. The main character was an older man, and he gave everything he had in service to a younger guy, who really never gave two hoots about him. The whole ‘noble self-sacrifice’ thing really gets me where I live, especially when it’s all in vain.
I can’t remember the title or anything much about this book – and frankly I don’t think I want to. Heaven knows what I’d think of it if I re-read it now! But whenever I find myself querying whether fiction ever really has an effect, I remember that.
What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
I have two books on the go at the moment. One is The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. I bought it for Mr B as a bit of a joke Christmas present, but actually it’s rather fun, and I have to admit that I do like throwing around the word ‘fuck’ – as does Knight, obviously!
The other tome is rather more serious: Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire by C.A. Bayley. This is part of the research mentioned above, for a Regency Romance set in India in the 1790s. I bit off a lot with this project, but I’m enjoying the chew.
As for next to be read, well … I currently have 442 books on my Want To Read list on Goodreads, and many of them relate to India. I suspect I should soon try Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor – and if that doesn’t scare me away from my story, then it’s high time to finally start writing!
For your chance to win an ebook of A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle answer this…what was the first book that made you cry?
The Book – OUT NOW
Plot me no plots!
Dale is proud of how his acting career is progressing. Tonight, for instance, is the last night (at the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) of a well-received run of Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, in which he plays Rafe. But his colleague Topher, who plays Jasper, seems to think something is missing in Dale’s life. They’re not really friends, and Dale sees little point in reprising the one night on which they were not-really-friends with benefits.
However! Despite the distractions of performing this chaotic two-plays-within-a-play, Dale is plagued by the niggling doubts prompted by Topher. Dale might be better off paying attention, though – because maybe Francis Beaumont, writing over 400 years ago, already provided the answers to Dale’s dilemma.
Julie Bozza is an English-Australian hybrid who is fuelled by espresso, calmed by knitting, unreasonably excited by photography, and madly in love with Amy Adams and John Keats.
Social media links:
Julie’s blog: http://juliebozza.com/
Julie’s website: http://libra-tiger.com/