IRVING Q & A
Do your characters ever inspire or shock you?  Which of your characters have surprised you most by their outcome?

No, my characters never surprise or shock me.  I have created them; I know them better than I know my own immediate family members or closest friends.  As for "inspiration", I think readers are the inspired ones.  I calculate everything, revise constantly, move a novel ahead about three or four pages a day.  The process of writing a novel is such a slow one, that there are no shocks or surprises-- except (I hope) for the readers.  I plan the surprises.  I am not surprised.


An issue of CREATIVE SCREENWRITING discussed an early draft of THE CIDER HOUSE RULES where Homer and Rose have the relationship that occurs between Angel and Rose in the finished book.  Is this in fact true and if so, why did you decide against it?


There were 40 or 50 drafts of the screenplay of THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.  In an early version, I decided to eliminate Candy and Homer's love affair and have Homer fall in love with Rose Rose instead.  In the novel, Homer's son falls in love with Rose Rose, but Homer doesn't have a son in the movie-- the film takes place in two years, not fifteen.  But that version was too bleak.  Homer returns to St. Cloud's without ever having known a love relationship.  (Rose Rose doesn't love him.)  Lasse Hallstrom reinstated the Homer-Candy relationship in proper relationship to the whole.  He returned the film closer to the book.  I had earlier resisted that love affair because I felt it would dominate the story-- it would take away from the more important relationships, Homer with Dr. Larch, Rose Rose with her father.


When you're done writing for the day, are you able to put your characters down, or do they generally live with you?


I write about seven or eight hours a day.  I daydream about the characters the rest of the time, certainly, and when I wake up in the night, I think about them then.  I think about them all the time.


Some authors say they do a lot of research.  Other infer the details from a loose knowledge of a subject, coupled with instinct.  Do you tend toward one or the other, or both?


Both.  I do research when there's something I need to know.  Medicine in orphange hospitals, abortion medicine, orthopedic medicine in India, police work in Holland, prostitution in Amsterdam, granite quarrying, American exiles living in Canada during and after the Vietnam War.  I don't feel a novel has to have research in it, but I never shy away from it, either.
-Random House