R.P. Marshall on Lamarck’s genetic theory & the ultimate writer’s daydream @rpmarshallarts
For those who maybe be interested to find out more on Lamarck’s genetic theory are there any resources you would recommend?
He’s received a bit of press in the scientific literature over the past few years. I like to think I made the link as quickly as anyone because the book was in gestation for a few years, but lets not quibble!. For more information, I would point you to the website: http://rpmarshall.com/the-science-behind-the-books/ . You’ll find some good links there. He didn’t know how his theory would work at a mechanistic level of course, we didn’t even know about DNA, so there was a long way to go. But the leap of imagination was the important step.
Which established writers do you enjoy reading and feel have perhaps contributed to your style?
Everyone likes to think they’re original, but of course there are influences. However, it might be easier for others to spot them than me. I like prose to be reasonably lean but to feel crafted and enjoyable in itself, at the same time, and not just be a means to driving plot. I like the Elmore Leonard quote on taking all the words out of a book that people skip over when they’re reading your book. I wouldn’t go to that extreme – Leonard’s style was meant to be very direct and streetwise as befits the generally hardened characters he was writing about – but I do try to avoid two page descriptions of the sunset or get lost in sentences just because they sound nice. There is a huge risk of becoming self-indulgent so ruthless self-editing is a must. Back to your question: somewhere between Don Delillo and John Updike would be good. I love their writing, but I know mine is distinct from both. Updike is the writer’s writer, I think. His prose glistens, it’s breathtaking. Another pitfall: don’t; try to emulate someone else’s style. When you’re own way of writing starts to click into place, it is a real joy. It might take a while to find though. I’ve heard people say that to begin with you have to write a lot just to get everyone else’s style out of your writing. There may be some truth in that. Final thought is not to over think it. Just write. If it ends up reading like Martin Amis, what”s not to like?
You mention the importance of self-critique. Was this something you had to work on or did your medical background mean you came to writing with a strong analytical approach?
Good question. The short answer is: both. Editing oneself is about trying t take a step back and be objective, it’s also about letting go. Letting go of words, sentences, sometime chapters, that on reflection don’t fit, or don’t work, or are unnecessary. The more you write the more you can spot them as you go along, so you don’t store up too many problems at the end of the first draft. But then you need to walk away from the book for a while and then come back afresh to try and take an unbiased view. A couple of tips would be: first know what success looks like. Know when your writing is right, the way you want it to be, otherwise you can just spin around, spending days on a word for no real gain. Then don’t settle for anything less than that level of quality for the whole book. Edit, edit edit.
Writing science i.e. manuscripts, book chapters, probably has helped me. Any writing at a profession level is valuable. It teaches you to be logical and crisp, and you have to self edit as well as be edited by others. It certainly helps de-clutter your writing. However writing scientific papers can be at odds with writing fiction, which by its nature is an exploration of ideas through imagination rather than through fact. One doesn’t want the prose to be too mechanical or stiff.
What are you working on currently?
The next manuscript is well underway, you can read more on the website under the ‘upcoming projects’ tab (www.rpmarshall.com). The working title is Vital Capacity. Its about the life force. What makes us keep going even when all hope is lost. There is a medical element to it, based on some scientific literature that’s real but few seem to have picked up on. It suggests people in apparently deep comas might be able to sense the world around them far more than has previously been thought. And it’s set a little in the future. You can expect some excerpts to start appearing in the new year.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your novel Antisense?
Ah, the ultimate writer’s daydream! Clive Owen would be superb. I’d also be interested what readers think.
A lot of authors set themselves certain daily or weekly goals in regards to number of pages or words written. Do you take this approach to your writing?
No, I don’t. I have a very busy day job like most people writing. I tried to in the beginning but then got frustrated as I kept missing the targets I’d set myself. Then I read an article where a famous writer said it was crazy for people with busy, absorbing jobs like lawyers or doctors to pretend they could write every day. And I thought: that’s absolutely right. You need headspace to write well, and blundering on just to hit a word count when you’re tired after a long day’s work and your mind is still full of science isn’t productive. You’ll write, but you’ll write rubbish. I reserve it for weekends and holidays. One does have to maintain some momentum though otherwise you lose the thread, style, and the ‘voice’ of your characters, so some application is required.
Follow R.P. Marshall on Twitter @rpmarshallarts