Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Nataša Dragnić

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Nataša Dragnić's Desk

For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book’s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Nataša Dragnić's debut novel, Every Day, Every Hour (Random House Canada) burst into the literary scene with sales in 28 countries around the world. Translated into English by Liesl Schillinger, the novel follows a love story that begins in the 1960s and spans a lifetime.

Nataša shares with Open Book about her writing space and process, the importance of looking out of windows and the beautiful empty spaces in a book.
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First there is nothing. Nothing you can seize. But we all know that there is no such thing as nothing. There is always energy. Invisible. Untouchable. And somewhere in this energy there are thoughts, that at the first, second or even third sight you don’t pay attention to because you are not aware of them. But then they start to follow you around night and day, they turn into ideas and pictures and if they are good enough and worth staying they become motion pictures. And while all this is happening exclusively in your head, you go on living as though nothing is really going on and nobody notices anything. Everything is as usual. Nothing special. Everyone will swear you are just looking out of the window. While outstanding, magnificent stories are taking place in your mind. And when you realize that this one idea is there to stay, you don’t just sit down and write. No. You start looking for the “how”.

Second there is the skeleton then. You have to find the perfect form for your there-to-stay-idea. This is the time where you decide who is going to tell the story and in what tense. You decide about the story and telling levels and how many of them you are going to need. There are so many things to be taken care of! And all this time you are still doing nothing. Everyone is still swearing you are just looking out of the window. Nothing special. But in this phase sometimes they will find you absentminded. Maybe they will have to call your name twice before you answer them. While you are thinking about the place your story needs. You start to research, you are reading books and looking at the pictures and collecting information. The most of which will never reach the reader. But you need them for your inner story, the one that, again, no reader will ever read. Because you are not going to tell him everything! Because he, the reader, loves those empty spaces in the book, that force him to be active, to think and to imagine and to fill in the gaps.

But we are not there yet. You are still just thinking. Where do you characters live? How old are they? Yes, you are there now. Your characters. Where you have to decide whose story is it and chose the perspective. So you sit down…yes, yes, finally…but not to write your novel. Not yet. First you make your family trees: who where when with whom from whom to whom? And you always write with a pencil because you are entitled to change it any time you feel like changing it. Ok. So now you know their names and age and family background and profession. You know the construction of the story: every bone is on its place. And you have an idea of the story you want to tell, but just an idea. Because you are going to let your characters live and tell it. And you don’t know them THAT well! So you will let them guide you. You will trust them…

And somewhere at this point you find yourself in the third stage: you actually start to write the novel. Finally. And you write and you write and you write. And you suffer. And you laugh. And you get angry. And you write. And you are not sure. And you think and search and you find. And you make notes while writing. And you cry. And you love every minute of it. This is what it is all about. And you rush and rush because you want to know how the story will end. You are writing fast and faster. Till your fingers cannot obey you anymore and you have to wait till tomorrow to continue. And after weeks and some more weeks you put the final full stop and you sit there knowing nothing, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. You leave your desk, your best friend, and there is nothing. It is almost as you were on the beginning. But you are not. This is a different kind of nothing. An empty nothing.

And when the emptiness is gone you come back to your desk and you start to read what you have written. You read and correct and rewrite and reread. Till you can say: this is it. My story. And then you are just plain happy.

— Nataša Dragnić

Nataša Dragnić was born in Split, Croatia. After studying German, English and French, she attended the Croatian School of Diplomacy. She currently lives in Germany, and Every Day, Every Hour is her first novel.

For more information about Every Day, Every Hour please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the At the Desk interviews in our archives.

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