By Wednesday evening I knew that the absolute highlight of my week so far was Alan Garner’s talk. His incredibly intricate, brilliantly written stories completely absorbed me, despite my usual reluctance to read fantasy novels.
I was hoping for an insight into how he creates these vivid worlds and weaves his deeply-layered, often chilling stories. What I got was so much more.
Garner speaks with a distinguished eloquence and a great deal of wisdom. He initially spoke of language history and his background as an athlete, an actor and an academic. By the time he began talking about his methods of writing I was absolutely enthralled, feverishly making notes for fear of losing a shard of wisdom.
For Alan, writers’ block is merely impatience. For him, stories arise from isolated ideas that appear in the mind from nowhere, often several years apart. Sparks then fly and form a book in the unconscious mind until there is a “moment of particularly sharp vision” and a sense that the book has always existed. It is then a task of “excavation” rather than creation for which he switches his brain off so it doesn’t “get in the way”. For Alan, “Creativity is not a job, it is a pathological state”.
He was also kind enough to sign books for eager fans after the talk, during which time he was funny, approachable and without airs and graces despite his impressive career.
I may not be a fantasy fan but I am now, without question, an Alan Garner fan.