Playing the Game – Creating Worlds: the Knox sisters in conversation

Dreamhunter
Dreamhunter

Bronwyn reports: From the very start of today’s meeting it is clear that Elizabeth and Sara Knox have a close relationship.  When I arrive, they are giggling on the couch, and their warmth and openness is apparent all the way through (they let me take their photo! and they say nice things about libraries!). 

The session itself is a bit more formally structured, as we are being recorded for radio, but there are some light moments too (mention of Sara’s interest in rear-gunners draws a laugh from many in the audience) …

Both talk about their most recent books, as well as the process of growing a novel, and of course ‘The Game’, and I’ve just jotted down a few thoughts and quotes from each:

Sara:  “The universe drops ideas on me; sometimes they’re big and they squash me, sometimes they’re supportable.”
Sara:  “It was impossible for me not to be a writer.”
Elizabeth:  ” I consider my writing to be not magic realism, but fantastic naturalism.”
Elizabeth:  “Everything is good and bad.”

Both say they have an over-developed sense of story, which comes from The Game …

– played as children and teenagers, and later as adults, it is described by Elizabeth as creating an imaginary world of fantastic (in both senses) characters and plots, built by the sisters, and likened to ‘Jane Austen with monsters’. 

Elizabeth compares writing to playing video and computer games – when you’re in the game, you can’t ‘see’ all the details of every scene, but the closer you get to a particular thing the clearer it becomes.  All the ‘information’ is already there, just waiting for you to draw close enough to make it out …

Donna reports: I really got a sense from the Knox sisters of their ‘overdeveloped sense of story’. Those two are imagination powerhouses! They had such a sense of creativity, I liked how Elizabeth compared writing a story to early versions of Grand Theft Auto, where detail is drawn in as you get closer.

Elizabeth’s Dreamhunter and Dreamquake books gave her an insight into writing for young adults – she learned through her skilful editor that the difference is not in vocabulary, it’s in the lack of distance between protagonists and reader. The author disappears, and there’s a real intimacy between readers and characters.

Sara is now working on a novel set in Sudan in 1898, while Elizabeth is writing a story set in NZ now – a ‘sort of desert island story’.

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