Where does it all come from?

PS: Not only where does it all come from but what on earth are they smoking or eating or perhaps drinking?

LL: The more intriguing question is when are they sleeping and when do they get the time to do other things which normal people do? Like shopping or cooking…

Yet another new book by Alexander McCall Smith was in the bookshops, setting us wondering how someone could write so prolifically. Within a few weeks we had gone from one end of the spectrum (writers who delay in coming up with sequels) to the other (writers who can’t seem to stop churning them out).

PS: How many series does he have out now? It’s a few billion isn’t it?

LL: Let’s see…there’s the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency; The Sunday Philosophy Club; No.44 Scotland Street; Corduroy Mansions and The Von Iglefeld books. Not to mention the occasional ‘one off’ books in between and a whole load of children’s books.

PS: So really where does he get the time along with all that to also teach, play the bassoon AND be on twitter. But on second thoughts I don’t think twitter counts these days. It’s supposed to be like breathing. You do it automatically.

(General tittering)

Seriously, I wonder if writing like everything else gets easier with practice, requiring less effort of thought as you do more and more of it.

LL: Surely it’s only some people who are wired like that and maybe the output also depends on the nature of books that one writes. Like I said, I am very interested in knowing when he does everything else.

PS: He is an Emeritus Professor so probably doesn’t teach much anymore and probably doesn’t do much around the house. I wonder what his wife has to say about the way he spends his time.

LL: Maybe he’s not human.

PS: Maybe he’s a woman in disguise if he can multitask that much. I have to say that he does write his female characters pretty well. Both Precious Ramotswe and Isabel Dalhousie are strong women.

LL: He does have the caricatures like Bertie’s mother in the 44 Scotland Street series. But yes, I agree the main characters are mostly sensible women who think about the consequences of their own actions. Unlike the I, me, myself types that the world is suddenly filled with.

PS: I suppose that’s what makes a character heroic, if they are willing to look beyond themselves. I also enjoy the way in which his people are so comfortably entrenched in their environment and enjoy the minutiae of daily life. Like Isabel Dalhousie noticing the fox who visits her garden or her appreciation of art and music.

LL: I find that the characters’ comfort level, whether with themselves physically or their situation in life is soothing for the reader. Isabel is aware that she is well off and therefore can enjoy certain luxuries that others can’t yet at the same time she is so grounded about it and doesn’t make a big deal of it.

PS: Even Precious Ramotswe comes across as a woman content with the life she has made for herself. Very little actually hassles both women and they calmly deal with whatever they have to. And you know that at the end of the book everything will turn out all right. Besides, one of the reasons why the books are so restful is that the characters are not dealing with great questions of life or death.

LL: I wonder how Alexander McCall Smith manages to keep track of all his characters and what has been going on in each of their lives through the series.

PS: Not much does happen which is nice on the one hand but can get boring after a while. The stories tend to blend into each other as the tone is pretty similar.

LL: Perhaps writers need to hire reader interest management consultants in order to tread the fine line between delaying too much which means that readers forget all about your characters and story line or be so prolific that your books are predictably similar.

PS: Apparently, all of these guys; Alexander McCall Smith, J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin and Kate Atkinson live near each other in Edinburgh. Perhaps the air around there has something to do with the amount they all write.

LL: I bet the real estate prices have shot up in the area with all the wannabe writers trying to grab hold of property and move there; even if it is just enough space to put a table and laptop.

PS: Maybe we should enquire.


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