My favorite authors, the ones I really admire, are the ones who write (or wrote) about ordinary life in such a way that they brought their worlds to life so clearly and compellingly that you feel as if you could step right into their characters’ world, their very living room, and interact with them in a natural manner without missing a beat. So who do I feel achieved this?
Jane Austen. She constantly astonishes me while reading her books with her insight into human character, the depth of emotion and motivation. Her world was a narrow one, her books all take place in the small sphere in which she lived, that of home and surrounding countryside and focussed largely on women’s concerns. Two hundred years after her death, we’re still reading her, and countless movie adaptations have been made. Unlike modern “romance” stories, she mercifully spends almost no time describing appearances, clothing fashions.
Edith Wharton. We are completely swept into late 19th century New York society, warts and all. Almost like a historian, knowing her books would give the future a window into the world she grew up in, she lays out the social customs, and how they affect those constrained to live within them. We watch as characters unravel under the weight of oppressive conventions, even while they strive to maintain them.
I’m sure there are many others (Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” comes to mind), but I’ll stop here for now. I never really considered writing mainstream, literary fiction like these two ladies. My penchant has always been science fiction, and the supernatural. I don’t know if it’s possible to write that genre with the same depth. Can we create a universe so intimately known, yet completely unreal and removed from anyone’s experience? How do we get that kind of realism into our own fiction?