Fiction Shall Set You Free

Question: How has your journalism background influenced your \r\nfiction?

Isabel Allende: In many ways. It’s good for a writer to \r\ncome from journalism because it gives you the tools.  I learned to use \r\nlanguage effectively; to look for a good noun that would replace three \r\nadjectives; to be precise, direct, clear; to keep in mind the reader.  A\r\n journalist knows that he or she can lose the reader in six lines, so \r\ntry to keep the attention of the reader.  Also, you learn to research, \r\nand to conduct an interview—to extract from the person whatever you need\r\n from that person.  So, all that has been really useful, plus the fact \r\nthat a journalist always works with a deadline. And if I didn’t give \r\nmyself a deadline I would be procrastinating forever.  So, that’s why I \r\ngive myself January 8th to start and work until I finish a first draft.

Are aspects of your fiction autobiographical?

\r\nIsabel Allende: A lot.  I have written memoirs that are \r\ncompletely autobiographical, but I think that in my books, there... even\r\n sometimes I don’t know that it is autobiographical until after the book\r\n is published and someone points it out to me that, for example, this \r\nstory that I thought was about the Gold Rush is really about feminism \r\nand it’s about my own struggle for liberation. Or... I have very strong \r\nmothers and I have absent fathers, that’s because I didn’t know my \r\nfather.  I have many elements of my own life and my own emotions and \r\nsentiments.

\r\n Question:
Is your process different for fiction and \r\nnonfiction?

\r\nIsabel Allende: Yes.  I prefer fiction because in fiction I do \r\nwhatever I want.  And whatever I do is my responsibility and that's it. \r\n In a memoir, it’s not only about me; it’s also about the people that \r\nlive with me.  The people I love the most.  And I have to ask myself, \r\n"What is mine to tell and what is not mine to tell?"  Am I invading \r\nsomebody else's life or privacy?  And so I need to write taking that in \r\nmind, and then I have to give the manuscript to each person in the book \r\nso that they will read it before it's published.  Except in one \r\ninstance, I have never had a problem.  People usually are very kind and \r\nare very willing to be in a book.  But it is a longer and more \r\ncomplicated process. 

Also, in memoir, it’s very hard to lie \r\nbecause you will be caught—and, in fiction, I can do whatever I want.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Priya George

In memoirs, the author must decide "what is mine to tell and what is not mine to tell." But in fiction, "I do whatever I want."

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