Imagine an overflow crowd of readers, asking questions about your characters as if they were real people.
I was one of the few people at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland on Monday night who hadn’t yet experienced The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. There was standing room only to hear her read from her debut novel, now in paperback, and answer questions–the majority of which were about specific characters and whether they were based on real people. Amanda did an amazing job fielding inquiries about particular plot points without giving too much away for the few of us who hadn’t read her novel yet. Here are a few of the things she shared with the audience during the Q and A.
Amanda said her grandfather was an orchardist outside Wenatchee, Washington, and he was an inspiration for the Talmadge character. “It’s one of those things where I was deeply affected by the landscape and being with my grandparents,” she said. While her family moved away when she was seven, that experience left a resonant impression.
On discovering Faulkner: “Faulkner really just shook me up and really inspired me.”
On not having total control of one’s characters: “Your subconscious sorts a lot of stuff out.”
Amanda said it took eight years to write The Orchardist. “You can imagine eight years of pages. I have them on my computer and on my desk.”
“Just actually writing each day is like medicine,” she said. “If you don’t do it, it doesn’t feel good.”
She mentioned using the prompts in A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves to start writing sessions and how she feels about getting feedback on early drafts. “My nature is not to show anything to anybody,” she said, adding that she does have several people she gives work to once it’s ready.
The Orchardist was the first novel Amanda submitted to publishers. She talked about the role author Salvatore Scibona had in connecting her to agent Bill Clegg, and how when The Orchardist was ready, it sold in four days. She also talked a little about her work-in-progress and how she expected writing the next novel would be easier. “I thought it would be easier, but it’s not,” she said. “So that dream has died.”
Amanda said her life has definitely changed because of the success of The Orchardist. “You meet all these wonderful people who read.”
Now I am delving into this beautiful world Amanda created. I love books that have taken many years to write because they’re often so rich with story and language and the interplay between the two, and I love literary historical fiction.