Joyce Carol Oates is one of those prolific writers that can make writers like me shrink into a corner and wonder what the hell do I think I'm doing. By the time she was 59 she had published 70 books. (Hum-mm, Let's see I'm 50, 70/9= 7.8 books a year. Not likely.) OK, but that isn't why I wanted to spotlight her. I am always fascinated in a writer's roots, what they find challenging and finally how and what processes they use.
The Roots: Oates is the daughter of middle school dropouts. Her father worked for General Motors. Her mother was the child of a murdered man and her sister was institutionalized for autism. She was educated in a one room school where bullying and teasing was a daily occurrence. Her childhood full of reading and her love of language contributed greatly to her as a writer. (The Writing Life).
The Challenge: In a time when feminine and masculine has strong lines of division, Oates found herself at odds, "...I probably did grow up more clever than good; as a "sweet maid," I've been a disappointment" (Oates). She often writes as a "man from the inside".
The Process: Oates writes everything in longhand first, often 1000 pages for every 250 printed pages. She often starts stories many times, always jotting notes along the way, often graphs and charts. Her novel My Heart Laid Bare had 5,000 pages of worksheets. "When people accuse me of writing easily, I can't imagine what they mean."
Here she is on creating compelling characters:
Check out her newest book: