This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I have always been a reader, but it wasn’t until I was 40 that I decided I would also like to be a writer. Up until then, I thought books arrived out of authors’ heads fully-formed; I hadn’t heard of revising or editing or crappy first drafts, so writing a novel could only be something other people did. I studied sculpture for my first degree and then spent 23 years in marketing before I wrote my first short story (unless you count those I produced for my O’ Level English, which I don’t).
Many fortuitous events helped me to begin writing when I did: my children were old enough for me to have more time in the evenings, I got involved in a writing event at my local library, a close friend who had graduated from the Creative Writing MA at Bath Spa encouraged me to write, and I had a very supportive husband. But there was also one book which changed my life – Legend of a Suicide by David Vann.
For those who don’t know, Legend of a Suicide is a collection of overlapping short stories, exploring the real-life suicide of Vann’s father. One of these stories is longer than the others – a novella really – and in it a teenager, Roy, goes to live with his unhappy father on an uninhabited Alaskan island. Bad things happen, and then worse things. David Vann plays with his readers, pulls us along as we read. We’re unwilling participants, we want to tear ourselves away but all we can do is stare and watch open-mouthed. Then there’s the description of the landscape – the forests, the sea, the mountains.
Legend of a Suicide was the first book I read where I consciously thought, ‘I want to be able to write like that; I want my writing to have a visceral reaction in my readers,’ (if I were to get any). I wanted to write about the wilderness like Vann does, and relationships and human nature. It was the first book I took apart in order to work out how the writer made me feel the way I did when I read it.All of David Vann’s writing, but particularly Legend of a Suicide, has coloured how I write about the natural world, about people and landscape. I can only hope that my writing will one day have the same impact on a reader as his book did on me.
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller will be released on 26 February.