Margaret Drabble
Margaret Drabble was interviewed for The Oklahoma Review by Scherrey Cardwell, Ph.D., Margery Kingsley, Ph.D., and Von Underwood, Ph.D., faculty of the Department of English, Foreign Languages and Journalism at Cameron University, on April 16, 2000, at Comanche House, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The interview has been divided into seven web pages. The text only version is one web page.

An Interview with Margaret Drabble
text only

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

OKR:

Since The Oklahoma Review is a journal that focuses on creative writing, I suppose the obvious first question has to do with when or how you think you became a writer. Do you think it was something you were born with or something that developed?

MD:

I was certainly brought up in a reading family -- we read intensely -- and I used to write a bit when I was a child at school. I don't know that that means I had a desire to be a writer, but I certainly liked to write -- short stories and terrible ones perhaps -- but I did write. I think a lot of children write but then go through a gap where they don't write, and most of them don't come out of it. I went through University. I went to Cambridge, and I read English and I didn't write very much while I was at Cambridge because there wasn't much of a creative writing atmosphere there. I really wrote my first novel when I left the university. I married the week I left Cambridge. I don't know why quite, but I did and I found myself suddenly in a situation where I couldn't get a job for various domestic and practical reasons. I wrote my first novel because I found a great gap in my life where I had been studying and reading. I was really puzzled by what was happening between being a student and being an adult person and that's when I wrote my first book. And I discovered while writing it that perhaps that's what I did want -- I did want to write. So it came out of a mixture of circumstances. I sometimes wonder whether I would have written that first novel if I'd been very busy at that point in time -- if I'd had more to do, if I hadn't been just a wife hanging around, if I hadn't been in Stratford-upon-Avon where I didn't know many people. And I wonder whether perhaps ten years would have gone by before I thought of writing a book. But I'm very glad it happened that way. And as soon as I'd written one novel, I knew that's what I wanted to do.

OKR:

It's interesting that you decided to write a novel rather than a play; after all, you were in Stratford and you had been involved in the theater. Did you ever think of writing a play?

MD:

Yes, I did. And I have written a couple. Actually, other people keep suggesting that I ought to write a play and, as I said, I have written one or two, but they're not very good. I think writing a play requires a very particular discipline and I haven't got it. I simply can't construct a play properly. I'm a bit of a rambling constructor and I quite like rambling books. Plays just have to be so well organized; you can't afford to let people be bored for half a minute. Whereas in the novel you can allow your reader to be bored for some stretches. Reading any novel some people are going to be bored in some bits and some in others -- in a play you can't do that. And I simply couldn't construct tightly enough. I suppose I never really wanted to write a play. I've been bullied into doing it once or twice but I never felt happy with it, as a form.

OKR:

When you finished your first novel, did you immediately think of publishing it?

MD:

At the first stage, it was just fulfilling and I suppose it was something to assert the identity I felt I'd lost suddenly. I'd been a college student and then I stopped being that and I didn't know who I was anymore. So it was sort of to affirm who I was. And it was for company. I was alone quite a lot and it was something to do. And I don't think I did think of publication at first. When I'd finished the book I didn't really know if I should send it out or not, but I did. And in fact, the first publisher I sent it to did accept it. They kept it for quite a long time without reading it, but they did eventually read it and they took it, so that was immensely encouraging. I don't know that I'd have been so persevering if I'd had a lot of rejection notes, but fortunately I didn't.

OKR:

It's interesting to think that your first novel was a product of leaving Cambridge and trying to find your own identity; it also seems a bit ironic that you were doing it in Stratford where there's certainly a significant literary shadow. Did Shakespeare enter into writing at all for you there? Even just in the sense of saying, "Well, I guess a writer is something to be after all"?

MD:

It was important to me that Shakespeare was there. My first husband was in the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is why I was in Stratford to begin with. So I was very much in touch with Shakespeare. I would go to all the plays and talk about Shakespeare and listen to Shakespeare all the time. But I thought the Shakespeare business was another world. I didn't think at all in terms of writing a great or serious work at that stage. I'd just been studying literature; I'd been studying the Greats and I didn't even want to try to become one. I wanted to write a little novel of my own. And I think it happened because of the liberation of leaving Cambridge where we had been studying the Greats, where each week we were writing a Shakespeare paper or Henry James paper. I think it was being removed from that. I'd been happy to leave it, but suddenly I had lost all that and I just wanted to write a little novel to keep myself alive. I didn't aim to write a great novel.


top   1 2 3 4 5 6 7