"In the words of A.S. Byatt, who worked with [Penelope] Fitzgerald at Westminster Tutors, the London crammer, she was ... ‘someone with an austere, original talent’, and Byatt presents the way she came to understand this as an epiphany.
‘She said to me about Human Voices’ – the scent rising, perhaps, from the sausage roll Fitzgerald was warming up on the radiator for lunch ['cause how could I cut that? - ek] – ‘that she wished I would write something … to point out that it was based on a German poem by Heine, “Der Asra”’. Fitzgerald’s fourth novel, on the face of it a tragicomedy of love and loss among careworn bosses and dewy office girls at the wartime BBC, resonated, in its author’s mind at least, with a poem in which a Yemeni slave explains how, for the people he comes from, to love is to die.
We are talking about a writer for whom intellect was a passion, and whose books as much recount romances with whatever she has been reading as they do anything else."
--Not Penelope Fitzgerald, obviously - unless she's a particular passion of yours - but if you write, do you do so in conscious - or unconscious - dialogue with other things you've been reading?
I would have said, "Probably not anymore" - but I am very conscious right now of the fact that all my first published work absolutely was just that! I am re-reading Dorothy Dunnett's the Lymond Chronicles [a fun discussion on FaceBook], and it's bringing it all back - just how bouleversée I was by that series, and how much I learned from her technique, both consciously and un-. I'm seeing now even more clearly what a perfect master she is of characterization, pacing, transitions, and POINT OF VIEW . . . but that's another post. I just mean to begin by answering my own question by saying that there have definitely been times when my work has been, not so much a romance with what I've been reading, as a response to it - or a way of engaging with it in some manner.
I'll be curious to see what you have to say about your own.