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Friday, March 31, 2017

The need to create an alternative world


“There are many reasons why novelists write, but they all have one thing in common - a need to create an alternative world.” – John Fowles

When I give talks on writing and the process writers follow, I often quote British author John Fowles, who was born on this date in 1926 and wrote as many thoughtful and thought-provoking things about writing as anyone I’ve read.    And writing wasn’t even his first career choice.  Fowles set out to be a literary teacher, taking a job at a small school in Greece that later became the setting for his book The Magus.    Even though he had that novel ready to go in 1960, he held off after coming up with the idea for The Collector, his ultimate first novel that would establish his reputation. 

Published in 1963, The Collector went on to a massive paperback release, noted by the publisher as "probably the highest price that had hitherto been paid for a first novel.”  By 1965 it also had been made into a nailbiting movie  (if you’ve never seen it, find it, and settle back to be thoroughly entertained). 
His next major work, published after he             released The Magus (a moderate hit), was 1969’s international blockbuster The French Lieutenant's Woman.  Released to critical and popular success, it was eventually translated into a dozen languages, adapted as a feature film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, and cemented Fowles' international literary reputation.

While fiction was his forte’, Fowles also was a noted essayist, taught English as a foreign language to immigrant children, and earned minor acclaim as a poet – something he said should not be considered unusual.    “We all write poems,” he noted.  “It is simply that real poets are the ones who write in words.”


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