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'I Wrote The Same Novel Three Times...'

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Katie-Ellen

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...and got away with it,' says Kashuo Ishiguro in this interview in The Paris Review

If it's true, is that in any way a problem. Is it lazy or cheating or is it as some level, artistically and organically inevitable whether or not the writer is conscious of doing it?

The writer's lens, the writer's voice will make it so?


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Carol Rose

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Romance has a formula, especially in what we call category romance here in the USA. We all know how they're going to end. We read them for the journey of the hero/heroine falling in love. The writer's job is to make the journey unique each time. But most genre writers use formulas all the time, even outside of romance. Three act play, hero's journey, etc. There are multiple templates to follow. And most readers in those genres want that. They look for their fantasy to be written a certain way, their crime to be written a certain way, etc. Romance readers expect certain tropes, the dark moment, etc. To try to write outside that and do your own thing is always a gamble. Trust me. LOL!! I've tried and fallen flat on my author face for doing so. But of course I keep doing it anyway because I'm a rebel. :)

NOT saying, however, that a writer should lift scenes from one book and stick them into another, simply changing names and a few details. Although some writers do, and they get away with it. No clue why. To me, that's boring as hell to read, and shows no skill or imagination whatsoever.
 

Katie-Ellen

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Not referring to those in saying so long as it's not a formula. There are novelists where you expect a formula, and that's fine. Readers of Tom Clancy know what to expect in terms of formula. And that's what they want. Don't deliver, someone's going to be disappointed in that expectation. It's honest and up front. They're doing the business.

I read a novel by someone whose previous novel I had very much admired. A 'standalone', outwith genre, except maybe ghost story. The new novel was excellent IF YOU had not read an earlier novel to feel this one was a recycling; same story, even the same characters, just a new, if very well written setting. I enjoyed it, but also felt somehow cheated.

Ishiguro's last comment in this extract is interesting.

Extract from the Interview:

What inspired your second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, about a painter whose pro-militarist stance during the war comes back to haunt him?

ISHIGURO

There was a subplot in A Pale View of Hills about an old teacher who has to rethink the values on which he’s built his life. I said to myself, I would like to write a full-blown novel about a man in this situation—in this case, an artist whose career becomes contaminated because he happens to live at a certain time.

Then The Remains of the Day was set in motion by that novel. I looked at An Artist of the Floating World and thought, This is quite satisfactory in terms of exploring this theme about the wasted life in terms of career, but what about in your personal life? When you’re young, you think everything is to do with your career. Eventually you realize that your career is only a part of it. And I was feeling that. I wanted to write the whole thing again. How do you waste your life careerwise, and how do you waste your life in the personal arena?

INTERVIEWER

Why did you decide that Japan was no longer the appropriate setting for that story?

ISHIGURO

By the time I started The Remains of the Day, I realized that the essence of what I wanted to write was moveable.

INTERVIEWER

I think that’s very particular to you. It shows a certain chameleon-like ability.

ISHIGURO

I don’t think it is that chameleon-like. What I’m saying is I’ve written the same book three times. I just somehow got away with it.

INTERVIEWER

You think you have, but everyone who read your first novels and then read The Remains of the Day had a psychedelic moment—they were transported from this convincing Japanese setting to Lord Darlington’s estate.

ISHIGURO

That’s because people see the last thing first. For me, the essence doesn’t lie in the setting.
 
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Patricia D

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My take is that Ishiguro has a theme, the individual "who has to rethink the values that have shaped his life" and has explored this theme in different settings. Perhaps even started thinking that the setting mattered but then decided that this question existed outside of any specific setting. Thus, he has written the same book three times.
 
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