This evening, I drove to Uxbridge, a small community northeast of Toronto, to meet and listen to one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton. I was first introduced to Morton’s work several years ago while on maternity leave with the littlest Wanderlust Junior. I asked friends for book recommendations and one of them shared with me a copy of The Forgotten Garden. I devoured the book in under a week, reading during nap times and after the kids had gone to bed for the night. I had stepped into a fairy tale the likes of which I used to step into and become lost for hours. I felt a profound connection with the character of Eliza and allowed myself to wander through the idyllic English countryside.
In turn, I introduced my mother-in-law to Morton’s words and together we read and discussed The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper. The Secret Keeper is my favourite book of Morton’s yet, though all the reviews I have read swear that The Lake House, the newest brilliant work, is her best yet. I can’t believe I held out this long before getting my hands on my copy, but I’m glad that the copy I have was signed for me.
During the interview, the beautifully charming author candidly and lightheartedly talked about how much she enjoys plotting the story line, scribbling away in her notebooks, as well as the editing process and its multiple layers, through which the story becomes polished to its final presentation. She revealed that the part of actually sitting down to write the story can sometimes be challenging as she seeks the right words to describe certain profound feelings of the characters or works to illustrate on paper a picture she holds in her mind.
“All good writers are observers, whether they are introverts or extroverts.” She spoke about the images that inspire her stories, including the shapes of the sewage drains on the streets of London on which her eyes rest during a daily walk. I speak and write frequently about the importance of maintaining an attitude of curiosity and in fact, I believe that writers need to be both mindful of the environment around them and also able to ask questions that will shape stories about the objects and people they encounter.
During the audience question period, I asked Ms. Morton how she overcomes the challenge of transforming feelings and images onto the page when words refuse to come or sound utterly flat. Her answer: Get the first draft done but don’t give up afterward. Continue reworking it, polishing, editing.
When it was my turn to have my new book signed, she smiled at me warmly.
“Do you write?” she asked.
“I try,” I giggled nervously.
“I think that’s true for everyone,” she assured me.
All I can do is continue trying. The inspiration is always there, the story ready to reveal itself to the curious observer.
Have you read The Lake House or any of Kate Morton’s other books? Please leave a comment to share your insights with me and other readers (no spoilers, please).
Do you know someone who loves Ms. Morton’s stories as much as I do? They might enjoy this blog post, so please feel free to share it via email or social media.