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A profile in The New York Times

An interview with The Atlantic

The Shipping News, a Newfoundland perspective
E. Annie Proulx Interview

Annie Proulx enjoys debunking the myth that you should 'write about what you know.' For her, writing should be about personal growth, an interest in other people; she prefers 'write about what you would like to know ... listen in queues, in cafes, be plain nosey.' It is a policy that has stood her in good stead; ten years after the publication of her first novel Proulx has a US National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize to her name.

She picked up the 'research habit' during her years as a magazine writer, authoring articles on gardening and road-maintenance for the back-to-the-land movement, 'putting meat and potatoes on the table.' It was not until she was in her mid fifties with her last son leaving home that she felt she had the space to dedicate herself to fiction.

'I need large periods of unbroken time ... I write many, many drafts of my stories, with later drafts expanding. It's only after repetitive thinking about characters that the complexities get built in.'

Despite this exertion, her stories are characterised by their seemingly effortless compactness, a 'liquid flow of words' from beginning to end. 'The short story is definitely a much, much harder discipline than novels. Something small and yet large at the same time.'

Proulx now lives in the wilderness of Wyoming and emphasises that she is 'very much a rural person,' a quality evident from her stories, which seem to revel in their country settings. 'When I start writing, place is paramount, it determines the weather, what people eat ... man versus nature is very important to me.' However, Proulx is not in the habit of romanticising; the country can be a cruel place and many of her stories are gruesome affairs.

Her current project is a film script of 'A Lonely Coast', a story from the collection 'Close Range', which ends in a violent shootout involving its female narrator. She is excited about learning the form, exploring the possibilities of a new medium. Meanwhile, fans nervously await the film adaptation of her Pulitzer Prize winner 'The Shipping News', in production with Kevin Spacey and Kate Blanchette. How much control did she have over it? 'Absolutely none.'

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