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The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip
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The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip
Paperback $16.00
Sep 01, 2009 | ISBN 9780441017560

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  • Sep 01, 2009 | ISBN 9780441017560

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  • Sep 02, 2008 | ISBN 9781440635878

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Product Details

Author Q&A

You’ve said you wrote this one “just for yourself.” How is that different from the way other McKillip novels came about?

This one was simply much more fun than anything I’d written in a very long time. I had been trying for nearly a year to do a much more complicated fantasy, in which I could do absolutely nothing right. I finally had to give up on it for a time, at least. But there was the matter of a novel owed to my editor and a deadline . . . I had to write something. The Bell at Sealey Head came out—pretty much out of nowhere and, as I said, much more fun than what I’d been trying to do.

At the Saratoga World Fantasy Convention you said, provocatively, “I hate Jane Austen.” And yet, The Bell at Sealey Head has some remarkably Jane Austen-like moments, particularly in regard to Gwyneth Blair, doesn’t it? Want to talk about Jane?

Yes, I do. I’ve noticed this myself. How can I say I dislike someone’s novels and yet not only be influenced by them, but actively do research about her? I have read all of JA’s novels over the years, partly to see what all the fuss is about (I never studied her in college), partly to see if I could finally recognize that flaw in myself that refused to appreciate her. If I love novels I read them again and again—Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Bowen, and P.G. Wodehouse come to mind, along with dozens of other writers I can burrow down and get comfortable with. I’m never comfortable reading Jane. I can never see what she’s looking at, or hear her characters’ voices. I read and write with a constant reel of imagery going on in my head, and I can’t do this with her novels. She leaves out scenes I would consider crucial. How could she possibly reduce the great love scene between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to a single dry paragraph without any dialogue?

I did do research about JA’s writing career as background for the young writer in my novel, Gwyneth Blair. And about that historical period in general for some social background detail, though history loses out to fantasy whenever I need it to, for example in the unusual congeniality between “classes” in my novel. It occurs to me that while I didn’t look to JA to learn how to write, I was probably influenced by people who did read her, admired her and imitated her style. Also, I am shamefully addicted to the movies based on her novels—”Clueless” is one of my favorites.

Are you reading anything you love, in the fantasy genre or elsewhere?

I’m in the middle of Peter Ackroyd’s novel First Light, about archeologists digging up an ancient burial mound in Dorset, and I’m enjoying it very much. Before that I devoured Nancy Mitford’s comedy of manners Don’t Tell Alfred. Both writers, in their comic skewering of human nature, were most likely influenced by Jane Austen…

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