The writer’s persona in the narrative, MFA courses and Englishness – interview at Rain Taxi

How much should a writer’s personality show in a book? Some authors keep themselves out of the narrative voice, even in a personal book such as a memoir. Others colour every page with their sensibilities and personality, even if they’re writing fiction. This is just one of the questions I’m discussing today in the literary magazine Rain Taxi.

You might recognise my interviewer – Garry Craig Powell, who has been a guest on The Undercover Soundtrack (he put Phil Collins songs to unforgettable and cheeky use). Garry has also taught creative writing at university level, so that’s another discussion we have – are these courses useful, necessary, a hindrance, something else? What about journalism – when is that a good start for a fiction author?

And then there’s Englishness. What is that? Well, it could be a quality of restraint – when saying less means more. It might also be a sense of Elysian yearning for an emblematically romantic world, including the tradition of stories about remarkable houses. We’re trying to thrash it out. Do come over, and bring tea.

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  1. #1 by acflory on January 28, 2018 - 1:02 am

    Are comments closed over there deliberately, or an accident perhaps?

    • #2 by acflory on January 28, 2018 - 1:04 am

      woops! I meant to add that old places can be comforting because of their continuity, and the sense of /permanence/ the give. I always feel safe in an old house. Protected somehow.

    • #3 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on January 28, 2018 - 10:26 am

      Hi Andrea! I didn’t know they’d closed comments, but I’m happy to have yours here! And that’s a nice thought about old houses. I hadn’t considered it.

  2. #5 by J Rose on January 30, 2018 - 9:32 am

    I enjoyed reading this interview. Particularly what you say, Roz, about teaching and being taught ‘writing’:

    ‘Neither of these qualities can be taught. You’re either wired for them or you’re not. But each one of us, no matter how naturally gifted we are, has blind spots, so we need development and work.’

    So true, I think.

  3. #7 by Alexander M Zoltai on June 2, 2018 - 4:50 am

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Do check out this re-blog from Roz Morris…

  4. #8 by oranalily on March 1, 2019 - 10:15 am

    See this is an old post but am disappointed not to find where I can read the full post on the writers personality suffusing their fiction? I realized on reading the introduction that the majority of my stories and novels to date are a huge case in point for doing just that. However, I hope they could never be accused of falling into the sad category of ‘Mary Sue’. Observation, even brief encounters develop secondary characters, even protagonists to inhabit my stories who’s personalities and opinions are far removed from my own. It is an aspect of writing I find most enjoyable as well as amusing. I always find Roz Morris useful. Her advice and insight are most encouraging and would like to source the full article.

    • #9 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on March 1, 2019 - 8:59 pm

      Hi Lily! This question of personality is all the way through the discussion, but one passage that deals with it particularly is this:
      ‘You’re not only revealing the place to the reader but how you feel about it. And you’re a very personable guide. I suppose most good travel writing makes a character of the narrator, although some famous travel writers, like Jan Morris, try to keep themselves out of the writing. I wonder if you’ve been influenced by anyone we might know?’ (Excuse the immodest inclusion of praise, but it should help you find that section!)

      • #10 by oranalily on March 3, 2019 - 1:34 pm

        Thanks for replying. Actually I am not a travel writer…did not get that the piece focused on this.I write fiction, mostly romantic fiction although I am trying to go beyond my stories being only that. Not all, but several of my main characters in three novels at least, I admit would be clearly recognizable by any one who knows me well. It must be said though surely, that our own viewpoint as well as experiances are natural sources on which it is not unacceptable to draw? I do strive to create characters who are total invention however and enjoy developing this immensly. The short stories on my blog were written some years ago, light reads and none of these necessarily reflect my own views or personality although all were drawn in some way or another from my life experiances and observations. I have a completed novel of 100 000 words however, in which the protaganist and I have many traits in common! I simply wondered if this was considered a fault in itself by the liteary experts.I would like to try again with it for representation as self publishing is neither interesting to me or an option. Thanks….Lily

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