Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world? Curiosity about people of the past combined with a love of storytelling led me to write historical fiction. I delve into the heart of the matter, trying to fathom why people did what they did and bring them to life in all their messy humanity. It’s my way of making sense of the world. Seeing through the eyes of others broadens my capacity for compassion, and that is precisely what we need as we deal with the crises our species faces. Unfortunately it seems in short supply at the moment. I think about all the books that have inspired me to change my perspective and hope that I am doing the same for my readers. Making them stop, think, reconsider.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block? When I feel a block I kick panic to the curb and get curious about what’s brought me to a halt. I turn to play. I ask my characters what’s going on in their heads that I’m not seeing, walk around the setting in my mind’s eye with the point of view character and listen to their thoughts. I keep it light, jotting down impressions, snippets of dialogue that pop to mind. Sometimes I realize I need a different point of view for the scene, or maybe I need more information. That usually primes the pump and before I know it I’m back to work. The important thing is to get curious, not to panic—which is my knee jerk reaction. If I can’t quite shake the panic, I go for a walk in the woods, then begin again.
What is your favorite time to write? My favorite time to write is when my characters are talking to me, which means that sometimes it’s afternoon before I’m having fun, and on other days I dive right in first thing in the morning and reluctantly come up for air midday to eat and take a walk.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Best general piece of advice about writing: A writer reads. Voraciously. Eclectically. (Jack Cady in a short story workshop) Best advice from an editor: She picked out a scene I’d written and said, “There, that’s an example of your best writing. You’re deeply into the heart of your character and expressing it through all of his senses. I can tell you’re not censoring him, editing him. More of that throughout the rest of the book.” (Sara Ann Freed)
What excites you most about being a writer in today's age? As someone who has been publishing books for almost 30 years I appreciate the opportunities to engage with fellow writers and historians through social media of all sorts, and with readers. As a historian/writer I am still amazed by the resources now available online. Research is so much easier.
Candace Robb's The Riverwoman's Dragon is out now with Severn House.