Literary Birthday – 9 June – Patricia Cornwell

Happy Birthday, Patricia Cornwell,  born 9 June 1956.

Patricia Cornwell: On Writing

  1. Even if you are a best-seller you feel insecure because it is all so unpredictable.
  2. I didn’t invent forensic science and medicine. I just was one of the first people to recognise how interesting it is.
  3. I constantly remind people that crime isn’t solved by technology; it’s solved by people.
  4. In the first person, the readers feel smart, like it’s them solving the case.
  5. Murder is about power and the more powerful women get the more it will change the good that they do and the bad that they do.
  6. Quitting can’t be an option… .You have to be willing to be bad at something to be good at it. You will never be good at writing the first time you try, any more than Nadal hit a tennis ball the way he does now the first time he picked up a racket…the only way you get better is to just do it all the time. And if this is the inevitability of how you express yourself, you’re still going to get up after failures. Some people are lucky, and their first book gets published and is well received. For me it took a lot of warm-ups, and those books should have been rejected. They were a learning process; I would never try to publish them today… .I worked in the morgue for six years, because I had so many failures. And Scarpetta knew I needed to do that to be qualified to write about her.
  7. So what I would say to writers is: Go out and do something. Don’t just read other people’s books. Go have adventures! When you read Hemingway, you know he’s had that beer, he’s eaten that food, he shot that elephant. Now, I’m not recommending people go around shooting elephants, but go out and do something. Get real-life experiences you can describe.
  8. The human capacity to be curious has always existed. Think of what happens when you walk into someone’s bedroom and see a strange array of things—the phone is in a certain place, a notebook is on a chair, a hat is hung up. It’s in our nature to re-create what the person was doing. We’re taking in data constantly—getting information about people that will help us navigate through the world. We apply the same curiosity to a crime scene. The greatest gift is our own eyes, sense of smell, and abilities to deduce.
  9. I love my career. It’s like I woke up and won the lottery. I am amazed by this every day. Yes, it’s extremely hard work. This isn’t something you can cause to happen. It’s like a lightning strike.

Patricia Cornwell is an American crime writer. She is best known as the creator of a series of novels featuring Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner. The series started with Postmortem and there are now 25 books in the series.  She has sold more than 100 million copies of her works worldwide.

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by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 9th June 2013