Joyce makes perfect sense (Rachel not James) – Swindon Festival of Literature

10 May

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Rachel Joyce wrote The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, her first novel, which was the ninth best-selling book in 2013 (outselling JK Rowling’s first foray into adult fiction) and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

For these reasons my newly sharpened pencil jabbed me hard in the thigh when Rachel started to give writing tips.

She writes in a shed (fair enough not much unusual there, most writers draft first in creosote and are free basing Round-up by the second) but most earth shatteringly (for me at least), Joyce says the key to a successful novel is to write the end first and then make sure everything else that you write heads towards it.

This may seem completely obvious (because it is) to anyone else but to me it instantly provided me with the map for a story I have been trying to write for 14 years  (so watch out).  Joyce spoke at length about her novel Perfect where social hierarchies collide and people turn out to not be exactly who we may have thought they were.

Joyce maintains that change can be very disturbing and uses this to great effect in her novels. She is also very clear that the past is full of tiny incidents which can return at any point to knock the future a millimetre or two in the wrong direction.

Of the two books, Perfect is darker with plenty of moments when the weaknesses of central characters drive the plot in scary directions. Both are recommended though as is getting that ended sorted before you start.

Rachel Joyce was at Swindon Arts Centre, 8 May 2014. Words by Michael Scott. Photos by Calyx Pictures.

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