On one of our morning walks, Mr S and I were chatting about what makes a writer. Obviously, we’re much like regular folk except for the snark and preoccupation with gin and cupcakes, – but, I think writers, like other artists, see the world slightly differently from other people. It’s like we have a sliver of Lewis Carroll’s Looking Glass inside us, perhaps concealed in our imaginations and when we write, we see the Looking Glass world reflected back. We describe what we see in our novels and stories and poems.
Lest this sounds too esoteric, let me try to be more specific and explain what I mean in the context of my own work. Both Mr Rosenblum’s List and Fred are set in Dorset: Mr R in the Blackmore Vale and Fred by the sea. Each book takes place in a village that is both real and imagined: a Dorset through the Looking Glass. Rivers are diverted with a few words, hills grow and shrink and in Fred the coastline ripples and shifts. The Dorset in each novel is utterly real to me, – it’s grown out of folklore and countryside walks and talks with a thousand local people, but it’s also a writer’s landscape rather than the physical reality. It’s a landscape of the imagination.
In Fred, the real village of Tyneham has metamorphosed into its fictional equivalent, the Looking Glass village of Tyneford. I suppose I believe that sometimes in order to really describe and see a place, from the inside out, you have to describe it how you see it in your imagination rather than in fact. For instance, I envision Venice according to Canaletto’s paintings of the city. And yet, his most famous pictures show views that do not exist.
Sometimes in order to see our world more clearly, we have to take a peek through the Looking Glass.