Mira Tudor, the author of Poets, Artists, Lovers is joining me today to chat about her book, her writing process and the advice she has for new writers.
PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel riding waves of romanticism, drama, and wit in a manner reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day)—and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.
Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.
Hi Mira. It’s great to have you on Novel Kicks today.
Thank you, Laura! It’s great to be on your blog with you.
Your novel is called Poets, Artists, Lovers. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?
I’d been trying to write a novel for years, but it just wouldn’t come together. I was working too much from memories and simply couldn’t find the novel’s raison d’être. And then after putting it aside for a while, I realized in a matter of days that I had the whole story of Poets, Artists, Lovers. I couldn’t write it fast enough.
It’s a nostalgic piece, in a sense, harking back to a time when I was friends with a group of artists who used to hold parties every now and then at their office over the weekend. These parties have inspired Pamfil’s in the novel, but my characters are all imaginary. They grew out of real-life observations, of course, but I surprised myself how much they grew out of my own writing process as well. I say that because when I started writing I already had all the characters pinned down.
What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any writing rituals before and whilst you write?
I write an average of five or six hours a day (seven days a week), which includes research. I don’t have any rituals apart from drinking all sorts of coffee and tea, but I do need to take walks in order to get some distance from my writing and figure out various things that need to be changed, taken out, or added.
If you could spend time with your characters for a day, what would you do?
I can’t decide. I would like to go to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe; but also hiking through Ireland or driving along the Rhine Valley in Germany; visiting small towns and vineyards in France or Spain; exploring Paris or London; the list goes on.
Which fictional character are you most like?
I’m not much like any of these characters. Only the poetry is deeply mine.
Are you much of a planner before writing?
I like to know the concept and arc of the novel before I start writing. But each day brings lots of surprises. This novel I completed as I would a puzzle. I didn’t write it in a chronological order. I knew all that had to go into it, and wrote bits and pieces according to the strand of the story that felt more urgent that day. Then when I edited it I took a lot out to pull the puzzle tighter together.
In your opinion, is it better to wait for a complete first draft before editing. Do you have any advice for approaching the process?
I do a combination of writing and editing as I complete the first draft, but the focus is definitely on writing. I think it’s important to let the story flow out onto the page before you trammel it.
What advice would you give to a new author or someone thinking of writing a book but doesn’t know where to begin?
I’d join a chorus of other writers who say that we should tap into our obsessions. I don’t have obsessions per se, but I do have favourite themes. One of them is finding a balance between the life of the mind and the life of the senses. Okay, maybe it’s an obsession by now, since I address it in my second book as well. A classic that explores the difficulty of reconciling these two opposing and complementary human tendencies and paths through life is Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund. I first read it as a teenager, and then reread it several times since, as its larger theme and Hesse’s treatment of it resonated with me throughout my teenage years and adult life. When I set out to write Poets, Artists, Lovers, I knew that it was to be in some ways an oblique commentary on this book of Hesse’s. So, to come back to your question, maybe another good way to start writing a novel (or a memoir, etc.) is to think about a book that made an impact on you, and tease apart the elements that spoke to you most strongly in order to create a new story around some of them. Speaking of other writer’s books whose influence I embraced as I set out to write my first novel, David Nicholls’s One Day inspired me to go for a cinematic feel.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Probably serendipity (I know, not very original). I think that as much as we like to plan things and make our luck, we need a hefty dose of serendipity in order for our lives to be not only beautiful but also meaningful.
Are you able to tell me a little about what you’re currently working on?
Right now I’m working on promoting PAL, but soon I’ll start editing my second novel for publication. I’ve also connected with several new artists in Bucharest this fall, and felt tremendous energy and joy at chatting with them and exploring their work. A lot of that will go on my blog at http://theartdive.wordpress.com/.
Should plot or characters come first?
As a reader, I like both, but as a writer I’m drawn to creating books where characters come first— but even so, I think it’s very important to have all the characters looking for something throughout the whole novel. Also, I prefer characters who are conflicted about something over conflict between characters (but of course I can’t do without some of the latter). I do write a few characters that aren’t conflicted, but then I want the reader to feel intrigued about their life choices when set against those of people who struggle with themselves. That said, I want my books to be comforting reads, even as they are bittersweet.
More about Mira:
Mira Tudor believes in love, friends, long walks, and a constantly adapted pursuit of meaning. She holds an American BA in literature with a minor in studio art, and a Romanian BSc and MSc in sociology. She has also studied art history at MA level. After working in all these fields and more, and publishing, among other things, poetry and flash fiction, she is now devoting her creative energies mainly to crafting novels with compelling characters and stories.
Click to view her profile on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17091671.Mira_Tudor
View Poets, Artists, Lovers on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Poets-Artists-Lovers-Mira-Tudor-
View Poets, Artists, Lovers on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Poets-Artists-Lovers-Mira-Tudor-