In the intimate setting of the Smock Alley Theatre, Anita Shreve sat down in conversation with Sinead Gleeson. The writer began proceedings by reading a very brief extract from her new book, The Lives of Stella Bain. As she read aloud her own words we viewed the world through the eyes of the protagonist as she awoke in a field hospital in 1916 France to the realisation that she has no notion of her own identity.
After that tantalising snippet from her new novel, Anita chatted about her past and her work. She shared her memories of her early days as a teacher and her short story writing, her winning of the O. Henry prize in 1976, through to the publication of her first novel, Eden Close. Then we heard of her breakout success with The Pilot’s Wife, which was featured as part of Oprah’s Book Club, and her continued success up until the release of her newest novel, Stella Bain, which went through an incredible 9 drafts and a period locked in a drawer.
There were some standout moments, including an epic Oprah Winfrey impression and an anecdote in which it transpired that Anita only realised her novel, Resistance, had been adapted into a movie when a passing stranger happened to mention watching it on Netflix.
When it came to the Q&A the audience offered up some great questions. Here we learned, amongst other things, that Shreve does not try to imbue any particular ideology into her work and that her focus is on the story. She also revealed that she doesn’t talk about a book while she’s working on it, likening a story to a bottle of soda. She wants to keep all the fizz in the story so keeps the lid on tight until it’s time to drink it.
As the evening drew to a close everyone decamped to The Gutter Bookshop, across the street from Smock Alley Theatre, where the writer met fans and signed copies of her book. And so ended the second and final of our DWF-Off The Page preview events. There are now only 6 weeks left before the festival itself returns on May 17th, with a huge range of events in a host of venues over nine days. Full festival details will be announced very soon so keep an eye here and on the events section our website.
To learn more about Anita Shreve and her novels you can visit her website.