WWC 2014, Day 2: An hour with Jack Whyte


Jack WhyteJack is simply fabulous. You can read more about him on his web site, camulod.com/aboutjack.


 

When I wrote The Sky Stone, I was called by the Historical Society to speak to a bunch of academics. Do you know what I told them? “Do you think my head buttons up the back?”

Eventually, I was decided to go, and I ended up getting three standing ovations. One of the reasons why? Historians are bound by the historical record. Writers get to speculate. We get to write what the historians wish they could.

That’s the kind of research you have to do, though. You have to be able to speak to a room of historians as though they were your peers.

You can do it all on the internet, but don’t rely on Wikipedia. Because anyone can contribute, occasionally, they do. It’s a place to start, but then go to your public or university library.

Research can obsess you. Answer the questions you need to proceed with your novel but no more.

You have to be able to write with authority.

Look at the art of the time, the architecture, the fashion, the design. Get the whole picture first. Most of it won’t even make it into your novel, but when you get the details right, your fictional world will come alive for the reader.

Q: How did you start?

In college, I was dating a beautiful woman. I called her “the Polish princess.” We made a date to go for a walk together. I read Quo Vadis, while I waited. She was an hour late. It turns out her grandfather was the author. I thought, “Wouldn’t that be neat if this happened to me?”

Everything I write is written to be heard.

I was a great fan of Frank Yerby (Mel’s note: Yes, I totally get the irony of citing Wikipedia in this transcription, but as Jack said, it’s a starting place. You want to find out more, go research.). He wrote magnificent historical fiction.

Read your work aloud. I record it and listen to it while driving. Your errors will become apparent.

Q: What’s a typical writing day for Jack Whyte?

I write from 8 pm to 2 am. The next day, I print and edit the pervious day’s work.

Discipline is the key.

Q: Do you plot?

When I begin writing, I know the ending. Then I look for the start. But I just write. I don’t plot, per se.

I’ve written 9 novels in 37 years.

There’s a bit of snobbery in Canadian Literature. Look at Pierre Burton and Farley Mowat. Commercial success and genre fiction are dirty words.

Q: Have you ever had any legal issues?

Not really. We have a moral obligation not to defame anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

In the end, everything is fiction. Even an historical document, because it was written through the frame of the time its author lived in.


 

Next week: Business planning for creative people.

Tomorrow: Finally ready to write my Series discoveries post and I’ll have a brief update on the week.

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