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The Arduous Process of Writing: Background information when reading Redemption Road

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Redemption Road

by John Hart

Redemption Road by John Hart X
Redemption Road by John Hart
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 432 pages
    May 2017, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

The Arduous Process of Writing

This article relates to Redemption Road

Print Review

John Hart took five years to produce his fifth novel, which he has said is surprising, given that his previous four books only took him approximately a year apiece to write. In the case of Redemption Road, Hart penned 300 pages, practically a whole novel, before deciding that he had chosen the wrong person to be his main character. It could not have been easy to put over a year of work to one side and start again, but Hart is definitely not the only well known author who has struggled this way.

Junot Diaz began writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ten years before it was finally published. Diaz's book of short stories, Drown, was released in 1997 but his book about an immigrant family and in particular the overweight, nerdy son, Oscar, did not see the light of day until 2007. Of his struggles with writing, Diaz has said: "I've never had the good fortune of getting a clear idea in my head and then writing the damn thing down in one go. The only success I've had as a writer is by screwing up over and over and over." Since 2007, Diaz has another short story collection to his credit: This Is How You Lose Her, in 2012. In an interview in The Daily Beast in 2013, Diaz said: "I write essays as little as possible, and I find fiction to be difficult. I hope to God never to write another short story! I find short stories excruciating."

Booker prize-winning novelist, Hilary Mantel, completed her fascinating novel of the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety, in 1979 but it was not published until 1992. Turned down for her lengthy work of historical fiction, Mantel changed tack completely and wrote four contemporary novels before a publisher asked to take a look at her take on Robespierre, Danton and their fellow revolutionaries. When she did return to it, she decided to put more emphasis on the female characters although she was careful to make them realistic figures, not the witches or herbalists that she found too common in contemporary historical fiction. Fast-forward to 2009 and Hilary Mantel published Wolf Hall to great critical acclaim and she followed this three years later with Bring Up the Bodies. The conclusion to her Tudor trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, is yet to be published.

A household name, Michael Crichton, ran into unaccustomed trouble with bringing Jurassic Park to life. He had the initial concept in 1983 but producing a book he was happy with took another seven years. Following his customary approach Crichton sent a draft to a close circle of friends seeking their views. Unfortunately, they unanimously hated it. Two revisions followed before one reader suggested he change the point of view from a child's to an adult's. In a couple of succinct sentences loaded with understatement, Crichton explained: "So I rewrote it as an adult story. And then everybody liked it."

As the gap between installments in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series grows, fans may be wondering just how many years Martin needs to complete the final two novels. The first, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996, followed by A Clash of Kings in 1998 and A Storm of Swords in 2000. From this point on, however, Martin's publication rate has slowed. After a five-year gap, A Feast of Crows appeared in 2005 and another six years passed until A Dance with Dragons.

Fans desperate to see the final two novels hit the shelves might do well to consider that J.R.R. Tolkien said he began writing the The Lord of Rings in the 1930s and "wrote the last in about 1949...but then of course there was a tremendous lot of revision." Given such anecdotal evidence of how hard fiction can be to produce, it is fair to suggest that the end of A Song of Ice and Fire is not in sight just yet.

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Kate Braithwaite

This "beyond the book article" relates to Redemption Road. It originally ran in June 2016 and has been updated for the May 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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