Book Talk – Ann Packer explores as she writes in ‘Children’s Crusade’

30 Apr, 2015 11:01 pm

NEW YORK – Novelist Ann Packer’s latest novel, “The Children’s Crusade,” is a modern family epic, as big and tangled as the California live oak at the centre of its characters’ lives.

The story spans generations, as siblings with old wounds wrestle with whether to sell their childhood home.

Packer has published two short-story collections and three novels, including the bestseller “The Dive from Clausen’s Pier,” which was adapted into a film for the Lifetime television network. She spoke to Reuters about her process, genre labels and the publishing world.

Q: Your characters, especially as children, like to explore. Were you also exploring them as you went?

A: I can’t remember who it was that said it’s like driving on a dark highway and you can only see as far as your headlights. That idea drives all I do. I’m writing to find out what I’m going to write.

Q: Why are houses such powerful elements of our self-identities?

A: A house has sheltered each self you’ve been along the way. In addition to holding actual memories of things that happened in the house, it also holds all the people you’ve been. You can page through your identity over time.

Q: How have people labelled your writing? Do we have too many genres?


A: I’ve heard it called domestic realism. I’ve heard it called psychological realism. When women write it, it tends to be called domestic. When men write it, it tends to be called literature, but there you go. There are practical reasons for genres in the publishing world, of course.

But I think when trying to write fiction, people become preoccupied trying to angle their work in a certain direction. The bottom line is we’re all in our private spaces trying to make structures out of words, and we’re going to compel some people and bore others. It’s just the way it goes.

Q: Some writers dislike discussing their work. Do you?

A: Not at all, though I often feel I frustrate people with my answers. I come at it without a lot of romance. I’m very practical.

Some writers say, “I was channelling my character.” I think false modesty creeps in … Channelling a character is what happens when you’re writing well. – Reuters




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