Write Now with Carol Orange
Why this novelist always leaves a writing session with an unanswered question
Who Are You?
Carol Orange, novelist. I live in Chicago.
What Do You Write?
I write fiction. My style is descriptive, mysterious and deep. I began writing when I was in elementary school. After college I worked as an editorial assistant at Random House and was introduced by my editor Jason Epstein to his polished authors. William Styron was the one who influenced me the most, particularly his novel Sophie’s Choice. I abhor violence so I don’t write about it viscerally, although I will refer to violent behavior. I do love what I do. I forget about time when I write. I also love to read. Being creative makes me feel like I’m on top of the world and then I can handle the mundane stuff of everyday life as well as the disappointments that life inevitably hands me from time to time.
Where Do You Write?
During this pandemic I now write in my kitchen sitting at a high counter. Before the pandemic I wrote at a cafe nearby called Intelligensia. I write on a computer but I take notes with my favorite pen in a notebook. When I lived in Paris I loved the beautiful notebooks they sold there and I filled about twenty of them in one year. But mainly I write and revise on my MacBook Air.
When Do You Write?
I like to have deadlines so I belong to two writing groups and make sure I submit to each of them once a month. I often write for hours at a time. I do not set a time limit. I look at my writing again about a week later and then revise, revise, revise. I forgot who said this, but I like to leave a writing session with an unanswered question or a particularly compelling sentence that makes me wonder what will happen next. I don’t think about the number of words. I make an outline in the beginning of a writing project, but then I often revise the outline as I go along. I write novels, but also short pieces. Going back and forth between the two sets up a nice rhythm. No one else sets the rules for me.
Why Do You Write?
I feel inspired when I write. Writing also helps soothe my sadness about any troubling events in my life. Once I see my pain down on paper I believe I can handle it. I have written about my adored brother’s suicide which was the most painful experience in my life. I often use his name in my stories as a way to honor him. When I lived in Paris for two years I became acquainted with the life and novels of George Sand. She wrote every day no matter what else was going on in her life, and she did experience many traumas as well as success. Her life as a novelist inspired me. For as long as I can remember I’ve been motivated to write. I get inspired by reading. I adore all the novels by Graham Greene. I have taken many writing courses over time. I love to learn. There is always more to learn about the craft of writing.
How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?
I rarely have writer’s block. If I am in a fallow period I’ve learned to trust it, knowing that it will not be long before I am writing again. It is something I’ve learned from meditation. However, if I am stuck in a chapter in my novel, I will work on a short piece. Just the exercise of writing gets me back to the longer form of the novel.
Bonus: What Do You Enjoy Doing When Not Writing?
I love yoga and practice it almost every day. I love to be with my friends and family and share a dinner with them from time to time. I love to walk and notice all the beauty there is in nature. I adore museums of art. Looking at art and contemplating its beauty is inspiring. I have a great curiosity about the world and love to travel with my best friend from childhood.