Charlotte Gullick is a novelist, essayist, editor, educator and Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College. Her first novel, By Way of Water, was chosen by Jayne Anne Phillips as the Grand Prize winner of the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Program, and a special author’s edition was reissued by the Santa Fe Writers Project in November of 2013. Charlotte’s other awards include a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship for Fiction, a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, a MacDowell Colony Residency, Faculty of Year from College of the Redwoods as well as the Evergreen State College 2012 Teacher Excellence Award. To learn more about Charlotte and her work, visit her website.
Next month, Charlotte will be teaching a class for the Writers’ League called “Complex Characters to Drive Your Fiction” as part of our Novel Writing Class Series. Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.
Charlotte Gullick: To get into a character, I think about the five senses and how these senses inform the character’s specific lens on the world. Sometimes, I might walk down the street, thinking about how a given character might see that street, smell that street, feel threatened or at ease while on that street. I believe that it is through the senses and through a thorough thinking about how a character sees and experiences their environment, we come to know their specific experience of the world.
Scribe: Your writing incorporates much from landscape and various regions; do you write outside to get inspiration?
CG: I often do write outside – and I also write to live music – I’m the geek in the corner, scribbling away as the music flows over the crowd. And if it’s music outside! Well, then I’m almost manic with “flow.” One of the reasons I write (or try to) write with a strong sense of landscape is that I’m interested in the intersection of internal and external landscape. Where we have our formative experiences creates an interior landscape that can help us understand the intersection of character and setting.
Scribe: Who’s one author that you consider a favorite?
CG: Louise Erdrich: I admire so much of her work: story arc, character development/evolution, landscape, the dynamic interplay of Catholicism and Ojibwe mythologies, gender identity, sacred numbers, lyrical prose, and a pulsing sense of how history beats alongside each of her characters. She’s a boss when it comes to storytelling.
Scribe: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
CG: It came from a writer’s conference where I presented this fall, and it is attributed to Ron Carlson: “It only takes twenty minutes to write a novel. Twenty minutes of avoiding distractions, of pushing through the difficulties of not knowing what one is doing, of getting yourself to commit to twenty minutes a day.”
Click here to read about and register for Charlotte’s class or other classes in this series.