Novelist Kate Grenville in conversation with Margot Waddell

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Listen to the Q&A session

Venue: At The Institute of Psychoanalysis 112a Shirland Road, London W9

Date: Thursday 12 July 2007

Exploring the interior: novelist Kate Grenville talked to analyst Margot Waddell about internal and external landscapes, and her journeys through fiction and history.

Kate Grenville’s latest book Searching for the Secret River is published by Canongate this month. It tells the story of how Grenville came to write her novel The Secret River one of the best loved books of 2006. Who was Grenville’s great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Wiseman, the Thames boatman sent as a convict to Australia in 1806? Grenville pursues her ancestor from Sydney to London and back, hoping to understand his life.

Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and awarded the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. The story of William Thornhill and his journey from London to the other side of the world has moved thousands of readers. Her previous novel, The Idea of Perfection, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001 and became a long-running bestseller. Her six other works of fiction have won numerous awards. Kate Grenville lives in Sydney with her family.

Margot Waddell is a fellow of the British Psychoanalytical Society and a consultant child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic. She has a doctorate in English Literature from Cambridge and has published many articles. Her most recent book, Inside Lives: psychoanalysis and the growth of the personality was published in 2002 by Karnac.


 

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Trusting the silence

Monday 16th July, 2007 | Posted by Caroline Graty

For author Kate Grenville, creativity comes out of the dark, from beneath the surface. It is a leap of faith rather than an active corralling of thoughts; a passive state into which ideas and voices are delivered from the silence within. The intellectual process of shaping them comes later.

Grenville discussed her work with psychoanalyst Margot Waddell at last week’s Connecting Conversations event, a fascinating insight into the writer\\'s craft and an exploration of its parallels with analysis.

When she first began to write Grenville had used a systematic approach, writing several unpublished (and, according to her, ‘really boring’) novels by imposing a preconceived idea on to her writing, with chapter headings and plot mapped out from the start. Things changed when a line by Jane Austen became the trigger for an intuitive leap into a new story. She started to write without a plan or structure in mind. ‘I had no idea what I’d write next. I just worked until I ran out of steam.’ The result was Lilian’s Story, Grenville’s first published novel and the first of many acclaimed works including the Booker shortlisted The Secret River and its companion, Searching for the Secret River.

The evening’s discussion wended its way through notions of truth, the boundaries between fiction and history and the burying of a nation’s painful past. Comparisons were also drawn between Grenville’s writing process and the journey through psychoanalysis - the temporary suspension of controlling intellect, faith in the productiveness of silence and the understanding that comes from the quiet space within.

‘I love talking about it, but I don’t want to understand it,’ said Grenville of her own creativity. She gave the impression that it was tenuous, ethereal, like something you see out of the corner of your eye, but, when you turn to look, is gone.