Kate Atkinson “Everyone said [it] was an autobiographical novel, and I was very offended. It’s fiction, but there’s so much of my life and other people’s lives in it that it’s hard for me to defend that. I took a lot of the structure of my own family – the aunts, the uncles, the cousins – and lots of my memories of atmosphere. I think my best memories were always for atmosphere… I took it all and made it into something because, for me, fiction is about making the chaos in my head into objective external order.”
[interviewed by Melvyn Bragg on ‘The South Bank Show’, Sky Arts]
Kate was born in York and her family ran a shop in the narrow medieval streets near York Minster, and as a child she was enchanted by York Castle Museum and Kirkgate, its reproduction Victorian street. So it was natural that this setting filled her imagination. The most common advice offered to novice writers is ‘write what you know’. So Kate did. And her first book won the Whitbread Book of the Year, so she must have done something right.
I know exactly what she means about writing fiction being a way of ordering the thoughts in her head. My head is so full of ‘stuff’ that I need to get it all out onto paper, most of which will never see the light of day in public! I’ve always felt an affinity with Kate, I was born 40 miles east of York and wasn’t used to novelists coming from rural Yorkshire.
To visit Kate’s website, click here.
Read this article in The Guardian about the origins of Atkinson’s first novel.
For more about York Castle Museum, click here.
Read my reviews of Atkinson’s Life After Life and A God in Ruins.
‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan]
If you agree with Kate Atkinson, perhaps you will agree with:-
Tracy Chevalier – a painting ‘draws you in, but does not answer your questions’
Rachel Cusk – it takes a particular kind of courage to write memoir
Judi Dench – give your character a back story
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Re-working memories as fiction: I agree with Kate Atkinson http://wp.me/p5gEM4-12Z via @SandraDanby #amwriting