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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Chat With Roald Dahl

I cried when I found out that Roald Dahl had died. I was ten years old (1990), and he was my favorite author. I only knew a little about the actual man, through reading his memoir Boy, but felt as though he were a twinkly-eyed grandfather figure telling me a story every time I opened a book.
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*Image of Roald Dahl in his "writing hut"*
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He had such authority as a narrator. I immediately trusted the words and fell into the books, from Matilda to The Witches to James and the Giant Peach to my absolute favorite, Danny the Champion of the World. I was awfully sad to find out that no more stories would be written by Mr. Dahl.
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Since then, I’ve discovered his adult literature, but I most often return to his children’s novels. In the back of my copy of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More is an interview conducted in 1988 by a family friend. Not too many people were allowed to come into his inner sanctum, especially not people from the media. Dahl himself said, “I have worked all my life in a small hut up in our orchard. It is a quiet private place, and no one has been permitted to pry in there.”
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The interview (available for free in several places) still fascinates me, so I thought from time to time I’d post a question/answer. It’s a nice way to see the thought process behind one of the most beloved children’s writers ever.
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Question from Todd McCormack: What is it like writing a book?
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Answer from Roald Dahl: When you’re writing, it’s rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it’s got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you’ve done all ties up. But it’s a very, very long, slow process.

A lovely description by a lovely man. Enjoy your week!

16 comments:

  1. I adored Roald Dahl's books for children. I did read Boy but none of his adult works. I love the image of him sitting all reclusive in his writing hut. Can we even do this any more? Be reclusive like this? Probably not, as now authors are expected to be out there marketing and promoting their work.

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  2. I would love a writing hut. Sometimes the couch, complete with a 3yo on my lap, doesn't cut it.

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  3. That's such a great way to look at the writing process! Why not take advice from a master? Matilda is one of my personal faves ~ :)

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  4. I love Roald Dahl's books. I haven't read any of his adult books, but I love his childrens' books. My favorite is probably Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    I wasn't alive when he died, but when I first started reading his books and found out that he was dead, I was pretty sad. :(

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  5. Oh. Gosh. I love the way he put it! It's so true. What a great post today Jess!

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  6. He's my favorite too. Thanks for the post. Enjoy your week. Happy Writing.

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  7. We are now officially best friends. I have loved Danny the Champion of the World since I was a very small boy, and I still consider it one of the most powerful tales I've ever read.

    It's very strange because because I read it before my own mom died, but it still gave me comfort afterwards.

    That's a beautiful description of writing a book. Now I have to go try to find the interview.

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  8. That really is a great description. I've enjoyed reading Dahl's books along with my girls, and my favorite is Matilda. How moving that you cried when you found out he had died.

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  9. I do love the way Dahl described writing. I haven't read his adult books, but I read (and loved) all his children's books while I was growing up. My parents used to have some of them on tape (of the cassette variety!!!) and my family would listen to them on long car trips. I think I could still recite much of his books from heart!

    Great post Jess, can't wait to read more of his interview :)

    Rach

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  10. What a wonderful glimpse into his writing world! Thanks for posting this. I loved James and the Giant Peach.

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  11. Oh, that's beautiful! Danny's my favourite as well -- it used to frighten me when I was small, but I came to love it. And what a great little peek into his thoughts. Thank you so much!

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  12. I was about the same age - I guess I had thought he was already dead, but I showed up to class and the teacher had written "Roald Dahl died today" on the board. I cracked that we should change his name to Roald Overanddied. My teacher was NOT amused.

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  13. I loved this post!
    Roald Dahl was every reason I even wanted to be a writer, from the time I was 4 years old.
    The Witches, The BFG, Danny - they are all still in my top books of all time...and it's so great to see someone else feels the very same way!

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  14. This post was awesome. I love Roald Dahl and I was sad to hear he passed as well. What's even worse, I don't own any of his books. I guess they were either left behind in the move or my mother only ever rented them.

    I'm definitely adding all of those to my pile of fun.

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  15. i like charlie and the chocolate factory

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