Lisa Ann Sandell is the author of Weight of the Sky and Song of the Sparrow, both written in verse. And her newest novel, The Map of the Known World is written in prose. Sandell's writing is truly a joy to read, lyrical and beautiful. She is a gifted author, and if you haven't read any of her books, get to the bookstore! Today she is with us to discuss the differences between poetry and prose.
What did you begin writing first... prose or poetry?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. When I was really little, I kept a diary about dinosaurs. Then I got a little older and started writing short stories about my cat. I began writing poetry in high school and carried on with it through college and took some poetry writing workshops. It was also in college that I began experimenting with narrative nonfiction (in prose), which, combined with poems I'd written became the basis for my first novel, The Weight of the Sky. Looking back, that's pretty weird, right--combining poetry and narrative nonfiction? I don't usually put the two together in my mind. :)
Do you have a preference over the two?
Well, I will always love writing poetry. It comes naturally to me--I like the spareness that it allows for, when writing fiction, I love how evocative it is and how well it knits with the senses.
How do you decide which writing style is best for your book?
Whatever comes out first. I began writing both of my first two novels in verse, but then I thought, no one will want to read that, so I began moving the lines up, closing the line breaks, but I found I couldn't keep it up. It felt so inorganic and forced to me, so I rebroke the lines and reverted to verse. But for A Map of the Known World, prose just felt right in my head. I can't explain it better than that.
How is your writing process different for prose and verse?
The writing process is pretty much the same. I just sit down in front of my computer or notebook (whichever is handy) and start writing and hoping that the words will arrange themselves in the right way.
Do you have a certain atmosphere that is perfect for inspiring you to write?
I love listening to music when I write, and when I wrote A Map of the Known World, I sat in the periodicals room of the main branch of the New York Public Library. It's a beautiful, old, wood-paneled room with famous publishing buildings murals that are tromp l'oeil style, so they look like they are paintings in big, gilted frames. It feels very writerly in there.
Are you working on anything new right now that you could tell us a little bit about?
It's still early, but I'm working on a new romance/adventure story...sort of in the vein of Song of the Sparrow. Eep!
A Map of the Known World