Shreve shares stories of her life, career as novelist
A popular author whose career was launched into orbit after Oprah’s Book Club chose “The Pilot’s Wife” as its 25th selection, Anita Shreve came to Sanibel last week as the fourth 2010-11 Author Series participant.
On Thursday, Shreve attended a special luncheon, conducted at The Sanctuary Golf Club, and gave a lecture to a standing-room-only crowd at the Sanibel Public Library, sharing stories about her upbringing, her family, and her successes as a best-selling novelist.
The fiction writer talked about her career, which has included teaching, penning articles for magazines — both domestically and internationally — and authoring several prize-winning short stories, including “Past The Island, Drifting,” which garnered an O. Henry Award in 1975.
Asked about making the transition from hard news journalist to a writer of emotionally-driven relationship tales, Shreve explained that she enjoys the “freedom” her work allows.
“I think it was easier to do than the other way around would’ve been,” said Shreve, who splits her time between Massachusetts and Maine. “I always wanted to write fiction. I used to write short stories, but I couldn’t make any money doing that. So when I finally began writing my first novel, I thought, ‘Hallelujah! I can make everything up!’ It was very liberating.”
Shreve grew up on Dedham, Mass. and graduated from Tufts University. She published her first novel, “Eden Close,” in 1989 and has since written 15 other novels. Among her works are “The Weight of Water,” “Fortune’s Rocks,” “A Change In Altitude” and “Body Surfing.” In late 2010, she published her latest book, “Rescue.”
In addition, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction in 1998. Her novel, “The Pilot’s Wife,” became the 25th selection of Oprah’s Book Club in 1999 and an international bestseller.
At the luncheon, Shreve spoke openly about her displeasure of the advancement of “downloadable” novels and e-book devices.
“We’re not too far away from the day when most books will be purchased electronically,” she stated, proclaiming her affinity for libraries and hardcover books. “I don’t think that’s very good news, but you can’t stop progress.”
Shreve also discussed the writing process, noting that often she is completely unaware of the themes because she is focused on the characters and the story itself.
“You don’t really know the character at the start (of the writing process),” she added. “It’s kinda like a shape that’s coming towards you out of a dense fog. The character is determined by the writing — every sentence adds another layer.”
She told the crowd that it takes her approximately 18 months to write each novel, during which most of the time she spends in her robe, a minimum of five hours each day, doing nothing but writing. She also writes by hand, adding that she likes the feeling of her ideas “moving from her head to her hand, from pen to paper.” Later, she transcribes her manuscripts onto a computer before turning them over to her publisher.
“It’s a very unusual way to work,” noted Shreve, who stated that once a draft is finished, her husband is the first one who gets to read it. “But this process works for me.”
The final 2010-11 Author Series participant, Lee Child, will be visiting the Sanibel Public Library on Thursday, March 24.
Born in 1954 in Coventry, England, Child attended law school before joining Granada Television in Manchester for an 18-year career as presentation director during British Television’s “golden age.” He lost his position in 1995 due to corporate restructuring and decided to write a book, “Killing Floor,” the first in the Jack Reacher series, and received the Anthony Award for Best First Novel.
Since his debut, Child has produced a new Jack Reacher novel every year. Child moved to America with his wife, Jane, in 1998 and devotes his time to writing American novels.
Tickets to attend Child’s lecture will be released next Thursday, Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. They are distributed at no charge to Sanibel Public Library card holders on a first come, first served basis. A maximum of two tickets per person will be distributed. Seating is limited.
The Author Series is made possible through the generous support of the Sanibel Public Library Foundation, Inc. and its donors.
For additional information, visit the Sanibel Public Library, at 770 Dunlop Road, or call 472-2483.