What motivates an author? (SWF, Post II)

I know that a lot of people may be surprised to hear this, but before this Sydney Writers Festival session entitled "Cassandra Clare's Underworld" I had never heard of Cassandra Clare or the Mortal Instruments series.

The truth is that I only went to this session of the Sydney Wrtiers Festical because I slept in (as a result of the horrible week at work I had had), and so by the time I got to the festival the event that I wanted to see had sold out and the queues to the other events were too long.

In short, "Cassandra Clare's Underworld" was the only event left that I could be certain of getting a seat at.

Although it wasn't something that I intended to see, I really enjoyed it. The books themselves, I have to admit, still don't appeal to me. YA vampire books just aren't my thing (ok ok, unless its Twilight and then I'm guilty as charged).

What did I enjoy about the discussion if the books don't appeal to me (I hear you ask)? There were two things:

The first is that I gained a real insight into an author's motivation for writing their book. Cassandra Clare was a really interesting lady. She explained how her idea for writing the Mortal Instruments series arose both out of her interest in mythology and how it can be used in modern writing to create story, and secondly out of her interest in 'urban exploration'. Urban exploration is the practice of exploring unknown parts of cities, like underground tunnels and abandoned buildings. Cassandra explained how she became very passionate about this past time, and indeed travelled around different areas of the world practising it. She went on to explain how she conceived the idea of a group of people living in the underworld of a city, that is, in those areas that are not known to the vast majority of a city's inhabitants. Cassandra then used her interest in mythology to conceive of a certain group of people who became the characters that lived in this underworld.

No doubt I am simplifying her creative process, but I hope that you understand where I am coming from.

I don't think that I am a particularly creative person, and so I was fascinated with this insight into the creative process behind a book. Imagination is a powerful tool and one that many adults lack. I can't help but admire someone who can use their own passions and interests to activate their imagination and create a story that thousands of people can come to love and appreciate.

The second aspect of this session that I enjoyed seeing was the number of teenagers who were there and were actively participating in the discussion by asking Cassandra Clare questions and talking amoungst themselves about the various things that she said.

In my line of work, I am constantly amazed by the number of adults who can get through 10 years of education and still can't read or write.

I believe that reading for leisure (as well as for educational purposes) significantly contributes to literacy skills, especially during childhood, and so it was very encouraging to see younger people really engaging with a story and wanting to see and talk to the author.

Up Next

"The Big Reading" – A group of 5 international authors (Kei Miller, Michael Cunningham, David Mitchell, Téa Obreht and Kader Abdolah) reading from their works and the award ceremony for the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Author Prize.

Post I: "The good and the bad of writers festivals"


Do you give much consideration to the author's motivation before, after or while you are reading your book? Do you think that giving the author's motivation some consideration can give you a better understanding of the book itself? Or even make a book you didn't connect with more interesting?

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