Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

Here we present our exclusive collection of Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors.

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Kate Grenville

Kate GrenvilleKate Grenville is the author of novels, short stories, and books on the writing process like The Writing Book: A Workbook for Fiction Writers.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

For me, writing very often starts with a location. There'll be scenes in the book that have a place, even before they quite have characters and certainly long before there's a "story." To find an engine for the writing, I go to that place. I don't go with any particular aim or hope or intention. Really I just mooch around. (But I make sure I've got something to take notes with—though I don't let myself quite know that I'm making sure of that. That would be too intentional.)

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

Mooching around, sitting and listening to the sounds of the place, looking at the light, the way the shadows fall, and maybe even attempting a little pencil sketch—is a way of bypassing the policeman in the brain that says "You are writing a story and it had better be good!" Anything that gets around the idea of the end-product is going to work, because what paralyses the imagination is the pressure of thinking about the finished product—which, naturally, has to be perfect. The idea of perfection is the thief of inspiration.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

So with my last book, set in the nineteenth century, I walked about, aimlessly, pointlessly, thoughtlessly, on various places I thought might contain some of what I was writing about. Some places have changed beyond recognition—the Sydney CBD is as different as it's possible from the bush that was there in the nineteenth century. But when you look at it in a certain way you can erase the skyscrapers and the bitumen and see a certain logic to the landscape—the stream here, the hill there, the secretive hidden headland over there. Other places, out in the bush, haven't changed so much.