Mystery & Suspense
A Conversation with Tana French
How has your background in theater helped you create your characters?
When you get right down to it, writing or at least writing in the first person, which is what I do is basically the same skill as acting. For years, my job as an actor was to create a character hopefully a full, three-dimensional character and spend hours a day operating completely from her perspective, bringing an audience into her world. Writing is just an extension of that process. These days, my job is to create a narrator and see everything through her eyes, filter it through her perceptions and describe it in her voice, so I can draw readers into her world. I play my narrator on paper, rather than on stage, but the mental process is the same. Writing scenes with a lot of characters gets complicated I have to 'play' all of them at once, juggle all their perspectives and motivations in my head but it's still that same skill. I keep meaning to e-mail my old acting teacher and thank him!
Are any of the characters in The Likeness based on anyone you know?
No, I don't base characters on real people. As soon as you do that, you're limited by what you know about the real person, what he or she would actually do or say. The character's no longer free to develop in tandem with the needs of the plot, the themes or the other characters, so he or she comes across as out of place and, weirdly, more artificial than a made-up character would. I do steal little tiny snippets an odd turn of phrase here, a quirky gesture there but only from people I don't know, people I pass on the street or sit next to on the bus. For me, anyway, creating characters from scratch makes for a more cohesive book.
Watch an interview
with Tana French about her bestselling psychological thriller, In the Woods
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