Tag Archives: novel

Ursula K. Le Guin (b. October 21): “If you have to die, commit suicide” & other quotes on writing

21 Oct


Ursula K. Le Guin, born 21 October 1929, is an American author first published in the 1960s. Her work often depicts futuristic or imaginary worlds different from ours in politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. She’s won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award several times.

Quotes on reading and writing:

  1. Write. Revise. If possible, publish.
  2. When I’m writing I don’t dream much; it’s like the dreaming gets used in the writing.
  3. Writing is my craft. I honour it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honoured by it. 
  4. The unread story is not a story; it’s little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. 
  5. If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.
  6. The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can’t have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life – rubbish.
  7. While we read a novel, we’re insane – bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices… Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.
  8. We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.
  9. Rewriting is as hard as composition is – that is, very hard work. But revising – fiddling and polishing – that’s gravy – I love it. I could do it forever. And the computer has made it such a breeze.
  10. The book itself is a curious artefact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.


Kate Grenville (b. October 14): “Fiction is a lot more than entertainment” & other quotes on writing

14 Oct


Kate Grenville, born 14 October 1950, is an Australian author who’s published nine novels, a collection of short stories and four books on writing. She’s won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Orange Prize. Two of her novels have been made into feature films.

Six quotes on writing:

  1. I’m a great believer in the experiential theory of writing.
  2. A novel is a way of living in another person’s reality for a time.
  3. History is a lot more than facts and fiction is a lot more than entertainment. 
  4. You can’t necessarily change the way language is used, but if it becomes something you’re conscious of … that gives you a certain power over it.
  5. For me, fiction’s job is to take you (both reader and writer) out of your comfort zone into the deep space of the new.  There’s a natural resistance to that. 
  6. Two pieces of advice: One, write out of an urge to write, not a desire to be a writer. That is, write about things that are important to you rather than things you think will find a market. Two, find some kind of paid work that will free you from the need to make a living from your writing, while giving you some time to write. 

Alice Munro, 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature: “I can’t play bridge…”

10 Oct


“I can’t play bridge. I don’t play tennis. All those things that people learn, and I admire, there hasn’t seemed time for. But what there is time for is looking out the window.” 

~ ALICE MUNRO, 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature


 For more quotations from Alice Munro, see:



Robert Harris: “A novel is like a car.”

6 Jun


“It is perfectly legitimate to write novels which are essentially prose poems, but in the end, I think, a novel is like a car, and if you buy a car and grow flowers in it, you’re forgetting that the car is designed to take you somewhere else.”



Warning: This novel contains trace amounts of astrology!

19 May

thumb_HWThe other day I was browsing through some recent Amazon reviews of my hard-boiled mystery thriller Harm’s Way. It was originally published years ago under a pseudonym at St. Martin’s Press, but I rewrote it in 2011 and self-published it under my own name, eventually offering it free in 2013 to pique interest in my other mystery/thrillers.

In one review the reader complained that Montreal wasn’t Los Angeles and I wasn’t Raymond Chandler. Although I’d suspected the latter already, I was still pleased he’d correctly identified a writer whose style I’d emulated in writing the novel.

The reader went on to grumble, however, that the novel contained too much cat, as well as too much astrology. Just to paint the big picture, my private investigator owned a cat which was savaged by a rogue Doberman in the first chapter, thus requiring the attentions of a lady vet with whom my hero subsequently became, um, intimately involved.

As for the astrology, my hero had a longstanding astrologer lady friend with whom he occasionally sought counsel. In the novel, astrology was discussed in two scenes totalling less than 1400 words; in a novel of approximately 80,000 words, that’s roughly 1.7%.

Although little more than a page and a half every hundred pages, it was obviously too much – constituting a near-toxic dose for my reader, whose belief system was apparently so challenged by those few pages that he fell into a fever of intolerance, almost shutting down his reading experience.

In all fairness, perhaps he does suffer from allergies – probably to cats, but maybe also to open-mindedness. There’s a lot of that going around. Even among some of my own friends, who know I’ve been a professional astrologer for 30 years, there’s this attitude: Practice astrology all you want with the kooks you call your clients, but when it comes to writing novels, please don’t inflict that nonsense on the rest of us.

Luckily, I’m still amused by the ignorance of people ever ready to criticize things they know nothing about. Ironically, many of astrology’s harshest critics never read any serious books on the subject, nor consulted professional astrologers. Everyone wants the easy route, and clearly it’s less effort to develop an uninformed opinion than an informed one. As Sir Isaac Newton chided a fellow scientist critical of Newton’s interest in astrology, Newton said, “Sir, I have studied the subject. You have not.”

Anyway, that review got me thinking… Do we now live in an age where the public’s attitude toward astrology is as virulent as its allergy to peanuts, shellfish and soy? Do I need a consumer label on my book covers, saying: “Warning! This novel contains trace amounts of astrology. Those of a fragile mind are cautioned to browse elsewhere less you catch a New Age virus.

thumb_SRGood thing this particular reader hadn’t discovered my New Age noir mystery thriller Scorpio Rising, whose content dedicated to astrology, palmistry and other esoteric subjects runs to 10%. If he’d read that, he might have died of anaphylactic shock, and I’d be facing a lawsuit.


Alan Annand is an astrologer (Dipl-FAS, Dipl-ACVA) based in Toronto. He is also the author of several mystery thrillers, and some of his novels feature shockingly-realistic depictions of major and minor characters who are also astrologers.

Jane Austen: “It’s only a novel.”

13 Jan


“Oh it is only a novel . . . . In short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.”



Something Wanton This Way Comes

20 Oct

Ever since the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, reading glasses the world over have been fogging up with heavy breathing. Publishers, having taken the pulse of this phenomenon and found it throbbing, are now trolling through their backlists, looking for something salacious to satisfy the public’s new appetite for literary erotica.

Lacking fresh product to satisfy growing demand, book marketers are now desperate to put new lipstick on old tarts. A major search portal and a men’s magazine are rumored to have joined forces, and are buying up the rights to hundreds of literary classics. After tweaking the titles, a small army of hacks will then refurbish the story lines with just enough romance and raunchy sex to make readers come back for more.

Expect to see some of these titillating titles appearing as stocking-stuffers for mommies everywhere this Xmas:

  1. A Massage in India ~ E.M. Forster
  2. A Whore’s House ~ Heinrik Ibsen
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlust ~ Lewis Carroll
  4. All the King’s Women ~ Robert Penn Warren
  5. As I Lay Coming ~ William Faulkner
  6. Briefing for a Descent into Her ~ Doris Lessing
  7. Chiquita ~ Vladimir Nabokov
  8. Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Fagtime ~ E.L. Doctorow
  10. Girl Farm ~ George Orwell
  11. Hot Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott
  12. I, Priapus ~ Robert Graves
  13. In Search of Lust Time ~ Marcel Proust
  14. King Leer ~ William Shakespeare
  15. Lady Oral ~ Margaret Atwood
  16. Midnight’s Chicken ~ Salman Rushdie
  17. Native Bastard ~ Richard Wright
  18. Necromancer ~ William Gibson
  19. Never Let Me Come ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
  20. Obsession ~ A.S. Byatt
  21. On the Broad ~ Jack Kerouac
  22. Play Her As She Lays ~ Joan Didion
  23. Sluthouse Five ~ Kurt Vonnegut
  24. Something Wanton This Way Comes ~ Ray Bradbury
  25. Son and Lover ~ D.H. Lawrence
  26. The Executioner’s Thong ~ Norman Mailer
  27. The French Lieutenant’s Boy ~ John Fowles
  28. The Lord Of The Cock Rings ~ J. R. R. Tolkien
  29. The Penis is A Lonely Hunter ~ Carson McCullers
  30. The Portrait of a Ladyboy ~ Henry James
  31. The Pot-Weed Factor ~ John Barth
  32. The Sex Adventures of Augie March ~ Saul Bellow
  33. The Sex Tourist’s Guide to the Galaxy ~ Douglas Adams
  34. The Way of All Flesh ~ Samuel Butler
  35. The Way We Love Now ~ Anthony Trollope
  36. Uranus is a Harsh Mistress ~ Robert Heinlein
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