Patricia Park is one of the few writers I know up to taking on Jane Eyre.
I’m not talking about talent. As well you know, there has been no end of that among the guests on the show. I am talking about the kind of willpower that lead her to spend ten years exploring every nook and cranny of the world of her novel, Re Jane. To give you a preview, this exploration involved winning a Fulbright to go and study in Korea for the middle portion of her novel. Beyond that, she thought she needed to take a detour into another novel that had her learning Spanish at Middlebury and deeply immersed in the Korean community in Argentina only to find the character she was writing about hidden in the pages of Re Jane.
A fully explored world doesn’t get written overnight. And for those of you who might be frustrated that the process doesn’t always go as fast as you like, this one’s for you. After speaking with Patricia, I was ready to apply for grants and leap on a plane. And beyond that, I was willing to be just a little bit more patient with how long it takes to write a book you’re pleased with. And if, like Patricia, you dive really deep into the world you’re writing about, you might find that there are other characters in your book that can carry more books in the future. I could barely keep still in my chair once we wrapped this one. I’m so inspired by Patricia’s process. I hope she inspires you to love your own, and keep writing.
Discussed in Episode 71 with Patricia Park:
- Eyre-heads and Jane Eyre fandom
- Taking on a beloved classic and what the framework of Jane Eyre meant
- The identity of the orphan and exploring Korean post-war identity vs. the English orphan in the original
- Contemporary fiction asks more of its heroines than Victorian literature did- why the story deviates
- Taking ten years to write the book
- Even with an MFA, there is no blueprint
- “You only learn what should go in..by writing all the things that should not”
- On having a 10% retention rate in her drafts
- Success in writing is measured differently than in most other professions
- On starting her education at the Bronx High School of Science
- Moving from science to literature as a discipline after exploring the possibility of the poet/scientist
- The benefit of an extremely long subway commute
- Watching the book have a new life now that it’s out beyond the life it had while she wrote it
- The challenge of writing two novels simultaneously now
- Exploring the world from Re Jane through two ancillary characters. Not a sequel per se, but a further dive into the same world
- Round and flat characters, as described by EM Forster
- Giving secondary characters their due
- Deciding which characters to follow? Let them tell you
- Taking Myers-Briggs tests for your characters
- Trusting the process
- Schroedinger’s book
- The separation of chemistry and art
- Getting grants to do research on novels
- Middlebury language institute
- You never know what you’ll need to know to write a novel…
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