008 An Interview with Marilynne Robinson

Some fiction writers manage to produce a book every year or two. In Marilynne Robinson’s case, three decades of writing has produced just three. Prolific she is not… and perhaps that is why each of her novels is a masterpiece. Here is an opportunity to learn the art of writing from a world-class wordsmith.

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About Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne’s first novel Housekeeping was released in 1980. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and winning the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, its tale of Ruth and Lucille in the fictional town of Fingerbone, Idaho, has been hailed a classic. The second novel, Gilead, came a staggering 24-years later. Recounting the memories of a dying Reverend to his seven year old son, it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Novel three, Home, took the risky step of retelling the story of Gilead through the eyes of another family in town. It won Britain’s prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2009. Lila and most recently Jack have followed since this interview, following a similar approach.

In the Interview

  • How Marilynne discovered her ‘voice’ as a writer
  • Why she wrote Housekeeping in the dark and why she writes all her fiction in long-hand first
  • The reason behind the 24-year wait for her second novel
  • How her characters take on a life of their own
  • Her Christian faith and the influence of sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin on her writing

A Virtual Writer’s Masterclass

In the final moments of the interview I ask Marilynne to complete the following sentences to give us even more writing tips:

  • The technique I wish I’d discovered earlier is…
  • My best creative insights come when I…
  • I come up with my best metaphors when I…
  • When I write, I always…
  • When I write, I never…
  • I know a book is finished when…
  • The finest advice I can give to a young writer is…


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