“Yeah, but I’ve got to tell you, there was one thing I really liked in that weekend. They’d invited a group of woman novelists to be on a kind of discussion panel about romance fiction (along with one gay male to keep up the gender balance), and at the end there was time for a few questions.

Someone asked one of the woman writers how she managed to keep on writing and whether she ever got discouraged. She replied, ‘Well, I get up and sit down at my desk, and then I start crying.’ Not racking sobs, she explained, but just sort of drizzling, hopeless tears. ‘Why?” said one of the other writers. “Oh, from fear.” You know, fear that she wouldn’t be able to think of anything else, or to continue.

That really appealed to me.”

“I suppose it is weird, really. It just seemed very natural to me, very truthful. Weeping from fear: that’s so much closer to my experience of life than all the other business-like bullshit they were going on about. I mean, she had some good tips on how to get round your blocks and so on, but it was mainly that image that got me. There’s something so real about tears.”

And about the image of a slim, dark girl with wings around her hips: Pallas Athena, or Camilla, the virgin queen of the Volscians, who ran so swiftly that she could pass through a cornfield without bending a blade, and cross the water without wetting a toe.


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