Sarah Hall Quotes

  1. I’ve always been interested in the history of radical feminism – what happened to those women of the 1960s and ’70s.
  2. I don’t like novels that tie everything up in a plot-y way. I always think that’s not really true of life, particularly of people in power.
  3. I tend to research as I write so that the narrative can take priority, which is important for a piece of fiction, I think, finding out facts as and when I need to.
  4. I was brought up in the north of England, which is probably no rougher than anywhere else, but I remember as a child being kind of mesmerized by girls fighting on the playground.
  5. A lot of my literature deals with these people who are somehow magnetic because they have that ability to step over lines.
  6. The short story is very good at looking at shadow psychologies and how the system breaks down underneath.
  7. Language description and metaphors seem readily available. The things I have to work harder at are plot, pacing, and form.
  8. It’s a lovely feeling, just working away at the desk, putting words down, building words up… I think you have to be aware that what you’re doing is not just a private act, it’s a societal thing.
  9. I was useless at science. I was never going to be an astrophysicist.
  10. In my early 20s, connecting with fiction was a difficult process. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason to what was meaningful, what convinced, and what made sense.
  11. When you are a kid, a wolf is an amazing sight, so sumptuous. I sort of knew these were splendid creatures, that I was not going to find them outside roaming around. It was like a dog, but not a dog. It was incredible, a god!
  12. Daniel Woodrell has made a name as a master of prose with personality – a densely descriptive, gamey form of storytelling, one might say traditional storytelling – of late rather an unfashionable mode.
  13. James Salter has talents on the page we novelists would sell souls to the devil for.
  14. I am a feminist, although I always worry saying that because you then get people asking you about the 1970s.
  15. You are often asked to explain your work, as if the reader isn’t able to work it out. And people always try and label you by your work.
  16. Quite a lot is required of writers these days in terms of, if not promoting the work, then being a representative of the work. It’s a difficult thing, really.
  17. You always hope you’ll surprise somebody with the work. If you write something human and appealing, the perfect reader could be anyone.
  18. I was brought up in Cumbria where I saw all these fierce agricultural women.
  19. We all have our preferences – some people go for birds – but for me, there’s just something about the wolf; the design of it is really aesthetically pleasing.
  20. I’m very aware of modern countryside issues, such as rewilding: how, as science progresses, we begin to understand that a healthy ecosystem is multiform.
  21. Our lives are politically wound.
  22. Dystopian novels, such as Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ often tend to site their despotised or deformed civilisations in urban environments.
  23. There was a lot of fiction I did not enjoy, whose landscapes seemed bland and unevocative, the characters faint-hearted within them, the very words lacking vibrancy.
  24. For about two years, while researching ‘The Wolf Border,’ I was a complete wolf bore. I would regurgitate everything I was researching, whether people were interested or not.
  25. Short stories are often strong meat. Reading them, even listening to them, can be challenging, by which I do not mean hard work, simply that a certain amount of nerve and maturity is required.
  26. My favourite pool is located in a remote valley in the eastern Lake District, surrounded by vine-hung cliffs and slippery boulders. It has a torrential sheet waterfall at one end and is almost black in colour, so it appears bottomless, a portal to nowhere.
  27. One of the things I try to do with my writing is try to evoke the spirit of the place. I think these things imprint on the landscape and the culture.
  28. Show, don’t tell, is a mantra repeated by tutors of creative writing courses the world over. As advice for amateurs, it is sound and helps avoid character profiling, unactivated scenes, and broken narrative frames.
  29. For every prescriptive idea about the craft of fiction, there’s at least one writer who makes a virtue of the contrary.
  30. I felt impelled to write. It felt demonic, and I wanted to improve, the way some people habitually pick up a guitar and get better at playing it and making up songs.
  31. Art history became an A-level option at my school the year I started sixth form. This happened because another student and I cajoled and bullied the head of the art department into arranging it with the examination board.
  32. My work is of me; it’s not me. I want it to be far more extraordinary than I am.
  33. I write in the mornings or afternoons – I’m not a night owl and can write for only four or five hours maximum.
  34. I’m a home-roamer and can’t do study or office scenarios.
  35. I was a terrible painter – my portraits looked like the evil chimera love-children of Picasso’s demoiselles and the BBC test card clown.
  36. Swimming in the cold and the dark of British autumn is not for the faint-hearted.
  37. You can’t see all of a place until you look at it from a distance.
  38. I like extreme situations: people pushed out of their comfort zones; the civil veneer stripped off.
  39. Swimming in the U.K. is not really about enjoying a sultry experience. It’s about cold, clear acts of purification, and constitutional durability. It’s about invigoration and bravado.
  40. I used to dislike bookshops immensely as a child and was won over only later in life.
  41. I can gabble on now, but I couldn’t when I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time in my own head on the moors by myself. It felt like writing was the right way to express myself.
  42. Writing, and its theatre of operation, is better than working shifts packing frozen sausages; that’s all I need to think about if I’m having difficulties.
  43. I studied the short story as part of my creative writing course at university but then set off as a novelist. Generally, there is a sense that even if you want to write short stories, you need to do a novel first.
  44. When I moved back to Cumbria, one of the first things I did was locate a decent bookshop.
  45. I’ve always been interested in wolves, since I was a child. There was a wolf enclosure in a wildlife park very close to where I was brought up; they were the main attraction.
  46. Over the years, I’ve lived in a variety of places, including America, but I was born and raised in the Lake District, in Cumbria. Growing up in that rural, sodden, mountainous county has shaped my brain, perhaps even my temperament.
  47. I don’t reckon there are many writers who start out really expecting writing to be an attainable occupation. Well, I didn’t. It was a pipe dream.
  48. I wander around the house and write in bed, at the kitchen table, by the window, in the yard.
  49. I don’t think practitioners should necessarily be advertising their work.
  50. It’s taken me 15 years to feel I might be able to write and publish short stories, and for the assiduous checks of the industry to allow some through.
  51. Nightmares of a capital city overwhelmed by tsunami, war or plague transfix us, but catastrophe is first felt locally, and there are many homes outside the city.
  52. Revisiting much-loved childhood novels is never easy.
  53. Set in a nameless colonial country, in an unspecified era, Katie Kitamura’s second novel tracks the fortunes of a landowning family during the first waves of civil unrest.
  54. I don’t see that books can be written without political context – not if they’re relevant and ambitious.
  55. Fear is a relative thing; its effects are relative to power.
  56. Having judged a few competitions, it’s clear that novelists are often the laziest short story writers.
  57. Writers cannot simply have a go, imagining it’s easier to produce a story than a novel because fewer words are required. Have a go by all means; be intrepid, but be equipped.
  58. My writing is called exotic or avant-garde because I write about rural places. Has it really come to this, that if you write about the country you are avant-garde? How did this happen? Modern agriculture and spaces are still so relevant.
  59. I married an American. He was from the Pacific Northwest but went to law school in the South, so I was living in Virginia and North Carolina.
  60. The beauty of interdisciplinary conversation is that the mode of expression is essentially different for each practitioner, even if ideas are shared.
  61. It’s very interesting to me that the nationalist movement in Scotland has become so positive and self-reflective rather than anti-English. The referendum in 2014 was peaceful, for all its deeply and passionately divided people.
  62. Various books revolutionised what I think about novels and showed me that they’re not strict, formulaic things. ‘Coming Through Slaughter’ by Michael Ondaatje was one of them.
  63. It’s been noted that writing about the production of art is a masquerade or metaphor for writing about writing. This may be true, there are similarities – both the verbal and the visual represent the thing or the concept.
  64. Apex predators are good for an environment in terms of biodiversity and trophic cascade – we have very few. But realistically, only a few areas could sustain free-roaming wolves in Britain, mostly in Scotland.
  65. There’s nothing like the vast, dark Atlantic to remind you of your mortality. But terror can also be exhilarating.
  66. You think back and you ask yourself why you became so interested in wolves. I think it was because when I was very small, growing up in a little hamlet near Shap, we would go to Lowther Wildlife Park for birthday parties. Now closed, it was only three miles from my parents’ house.
  67. I was the feral, mud-bathing, tree-climbing variety of child. Why would I want to read about pirates when I could build a raft and terrorise sheep along the riverbanks?
  68. I have ideas. I hear voices. Words accumulate. It’s still an overriding impulse. And I’m self-employed, which means I have to be sensible and motivated about paying the bills.
  69. Wonderful characters rotate around and through bookshops on a daily basis, competing with and possibly even triumphing over fiction when it comes to entertainment, strangeness and inspiration.
  70. I think you can tell any human story in a particular place.
  71. For its speculations to be taken seriously, dystopian fiction must be part of a discussion of contemporary society, a projection of ongoing political failures perhaps, or the wringing of present jeopardy for future disaster.

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