Saturday, April 28, 2012

Inteview with Judith Tarr, author of Alamut, on The Black Gate

Today's blog post is over on The Black Gate, and is an interview with Judith Tarr, the author of Alamut, a book credited with starting the modern wave of Arabian fantasy that is going so strong today. Judy was fascinating to interview. Her intellectual process is stunning. For example, when I asked her about researching another culture, she said:
The emotional connection is something that I don’t believe can be taught, though it’s possible to guide a student toward it. There’s a great deal more to evoking a world than racking up entries in a bibliography. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent ten years and read ten thousand books if you haven’t internalized the lives and the cultures you’re trying to write about.

And the first thing anyone has to do, when trying to accomplish this, is to shut off the internal voice that says, “My culture is The Best, The Greatest, The Summit of Creation.”

It’s examining assumptions. Questioning beliefs. Asking question after question. “Is this really how people felt? Am I portraying this world as it would have been, or as my personal values and beliefs would like it to be?”

I had learned by then through long discussions with editors and readers that if a writer is too accurate, she risks losing the modern readers who have to find some way into the world she’s created. That means a character the reader can sympathize or identify with (even in a negative sense — hating his guts but relating to what he does in ways that keep the reader reading), and a viewpoint that lets the reader become a part of the action and the setting.
 That's one that bears re-reading, and there is much, much more. Head on over to The Black Gate to read the full post.

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