As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author John Connolly shares the inspiration behind his new book, The Land Of Lost Things.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed John Connolly about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the creative process that went into his new release, The Land Of Lost Things.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m 55, born in Dublin, and was a journalist before I became a full-time novelist with the publication of my first book, Every Dead Thing, in 1999. For the past 13 years, I’ve also hosted a radio show, ABC to XTC, for RTE here in Ireland.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Like a lot of people who write for a living, I began writing when I was very young – not long after I learned to read, really. The logical step from reading and enjoying stories was trying to write one of my own. Every Dead Thing was the first novel that I sat down to write, though, at least in part out of frustration with journalism. I went into journalism because it was a way to be paid to write, but there were far better journalists at the Irish Times, and I didn’t enjoy newspaper work quite as much as I thought I would.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Like I said, I’d always written, but I stopped writing fiction after I left school, with the exception of one dreadful short story in college. Instead I worked for local newspapers and then college newspapers, and finally became a full-time freelance with the Irish Times, where I stayed for five years.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Probably about four years, with the last two involving serious focus, and a research trip to the US.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
I’m probably on a two-year cycle now, but it’s hard to quantify the period during which an idea gestates. I had vague ideas floating around in my head long before I started to put them down on the screen. I always have vague ideas percolating…
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Land Of Lost Things?
It picks up from The Book of Lost Things, which I published 17 years ago, and was very much a novel about remembered childhood pain. I didn’t want to write that novel again, and since then my sons have grown up and left home, and my mother has entered her nineties, so I think I wanted to explore that middle period, when many of us seem to be worrying about our kids and our parents. The next stage is people worrying about us.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Land Of Lost Things?
The same as with every book: not wanting to throw it away somewhere between 20-40,000 words, which is when doubt usually begins to set in.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist and Antagonist?
The answer is the same to both these questions: I think writing is a bit like dreaming, where it’s said that you’re everyone in your dreams. I tend to a draw a lot on myself for the characters in my books, good and bad. To be honest, I’m a bit distrustful of questions like this, if only because that’s not how I think about characters, or how I approach a book. I just tend to begin with the very vaguest of notions, and no plan really, and then start writing to see what emerges.
What is the inciting incident of The Land Of Lost Things?
An accident that leaves Phoebe, the daughter of Ceres, a young single mother, unresponsive. It looks at that moment when, as a parent, you just find yourself breaking, or think you’re no longer able to cope. I suspect every parent has been through it, in some shape or form.
What is the main conflict of The Land Of Lost Things?
Whether to go back to the possibility of pain, or accept a form of escape from it, even at a cost to those you love.
Did you plot The Land Of Lost Things in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
Entirely the second. I don’t think I’d be interested in writing a book that I’d planned. It just wouldn’t happen anyway. I can’t work that way. All good fiction is about character, and characters have to be discovered through the process of writing, at least for me.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Land Of Lost Things need?
I don’t work that way with my editors, or not after 36 books – and I’ve had the same editor in the UK since my first, and the same in the US since my second. By now, I think I have a good sense of when, or where, there might be problems with a book. That’s also a function of my background in journalism, where it was important to deliver clean copy, on deadline, that didn’t really have to be edited. If it came back to you, you’d done something wrong. Editing, for me, tends to be quite light touch. Having said that, I tend to take on board 90 per cent of my editors’ suggestions, argue about another five per cent before accepting them, and reject the last five per cent, only to realise later that I probably should have gone along with them as well.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
When you write the first line, you have to commit psychologically to writing the last as well. As someone once said, professionals are amateurs who finish things, and abandoning books and stories just damages our creative confidence.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’ve delivered next year’s Parker book, have another one at draft stage, and have a collection of supernatural fiction and non-fiction pretty much done. After that, I have an idea for a book set at the time of the Watergate hearings, and that may be the next novel.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Creatively, yes, and I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time and support myself that way. But proud? No, I don’t think that’s how my mind works. I fret too much for pride.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Audio CD: https://amzn.to/48B7ocN
We strive to keep The Table Read free for both our readers and our contributors. If you have enjoyed our work, please consider donating to help keep The Table Read going!
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.