Lois Lowry on Her Writing Process and Literary Influences

The best answer to any question.
Aug. 26 2014 7:38 AM

Lois Lowry on Her Writing Process and Literary Influences

452621626-author-lois-lowry-attends-the-weinstein-company
Author Lois Lowry at Comic-Con on July 24, 2014, in San Diego.

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for the Weinstein Company

These questions originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Lois Lowry, author, The Giver:

Advertisement

Q: What is the process that a writer goes through while writing a novel?

A: I sit alone in a room every day and do my work, and that’s what I love doing. I enter the lives of these characters that I know are fictional and have appeared in my imagination. But they become so real to me that when I finish a manuscript, it's like leaving behind a family that you’ve been close to, and I love that process.

Part of what I love about writing (as compared to movie-making) is I get to write the screenplay, of course. I write the dialogue, I design the set, I design the costumes, I do the casting, and I choose the camera angles. I do it all, all by myself. So, it was interesting to get involved with the movie-making and see how it becomes a collaborative act. It’s important how all those people work together with those things, but I confess I love having the control myself. I like being in charge of my own imagination. But that’s what I do—I sit there, all day, day after day, and I never get tired of it.

Part of the process of course, is constant revision. In the old days, when I began writing books, I worked on a typewriter with carbon paper. You took out a page, rolled in the next page, and that was all you had. That was your only copy. There was no Xerox machine. It was very tedious, and then somebody invented computers. That was life-changing for me because it meant that I could have it in a computer and print out five copies or 100 copies if I wanted to, and I could make revisions easily.

With the typed manuscript, if I wanted to revise three paragraphs on Page 83, it meant I’d have to go back. I’d have to reformat the whole thing, go back, and retype all these pages. So I didn’t do as much revising as I often should have.

With the computer, it became so easy and so exhilarating to revise that I found it hard to quit. It is always very difficult to type the end, because you keep thinking you can go back, change this and that. You have to say goodbye. You have to know when to let it go, and that’s hard.

Q: Which books have you read that influenced you deeply?

A: I can remember the first book that affected me as a child. It was a book my mother read to me when I was 8 years old. It was published as an adult book, but now I think it’s found its way to young-adult sections of bookstores. It was called The Yearling.

I was a voracious reader at 8, and I’d been reading since I was 3 (I had read everything that was there for me to read), but this was the first book that portrayed a child (a boy my age) in a real-life situation where things are tragic and painful. I remember my mother cried when she read one chapter. I’d never seen my mother cry before, and it was the first time that I realized (though I couldn’t have articulated it then) that a book had that power, that literature had that power to affect you emotionally.

I had been reading books like Mary Poppins and The Secret Garden, and suddenly here was this devastating book. My mother and I were weeping for words on a page together, and an author had made us do that. Plus, our particular copy of that book had illustrations by N.C. Wyeth that were just beautiful, so it was the combination. That was the book that I remember most.

More questions on Quora:

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.