I is for Irving

John Winslow Irving (born John Wallace Blunt Jnr) was born in New Hampshire in 1942 and whilst still at school became a wrestler and coach. He published his first novel at the age of 26, which flopped.

In the late 60’s he took a class with Kurt Vonnegut at The University of Iowa and then produced two further novels, both of which sunk without a trace.

Now in his early 30’s he took up the position of Assistant Professor of English at a college and decided to approach another publisher with his 4th novel, which was obviously a good decision, as The World According to Garp became an international best seller.

“Garp” propelled Irving to success and his subsequent novels (The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany, A Widow for One Year, and The Fourth Hand, to name a few) have helped establish him as one of Americas most loved writers.

Irving’s novels usually center on characters whose stories are in the recent past and who are often outsiders, trying to find their way in life. He often uses the literary technique of “story within a story” and is currently working on his next novel.

My favourite John Irving quotes:

“I spend about two to three months planning the path of the book in my head before I write the last sentence of the novel. From there I work back to the beginning. From the day I think of the last sentence to the book’s publication date, not more than a semicolon has changed.”

“I can’t imagine what the first sentence is, I can’t imagine where I want the reader to enter the story, if I don’t know where the reader is going to leave the story. So once I know what the last thing the reader hears is, I can work my way backward, like following a roadmap in reverse.”

“The building of the architecture of a novel—the craft of it—is something I never tire of.”

“I’ve always preferred writing in longhand. I’ve always written first drafts in longhand.”

“I have pretty thick skin and I think if you’re going to be in this business, if you’re going to be an actor or a writer, you better have a thick skin.”

Interview with Irving…over half an hour long but do watch it, its very good 🙂

Oh gawd, yeah, a thick skin *gulp* lol. I’m not sure I have it, or rather, enough of one 😉 Anyone got any tips on developing a thick skin?

30 thoughts on “I is for Irving

  1. A great reminder to new writers to keep learning and writing. For me the more I know who I am, the truth, the easier it is to let others have their opinions that roll off. No one can touch my core because it is protected by God. Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. You could read the Amazon reviews of authors whose books you love. Find the one star reviews and see how some people just like to be mean for mean sake. That way you see the reviews aren’t aimed at you when they come. It’s a funny old world out there and once you let your work go out there, you have to actually let it go as well. You’re catching me on a good day 😉


  3. As the chosen quotes show, Mr. Irving is such a reflective man. I don’t see him being influenced by fast-paced society standards. He dedicates a lot of time to the art of getting things right and it shows in his writing.


  4. What an interesting approach! I write whodunits so I start with the crime and the killer, then work backwards, but that’s probably standard for the genre. If you find out how to get that thick skin, do pass it on. I found one quote comforting, 35% of those aware of you will love your work, 35% will hate it and the rest will be completely indifferent.


    • Oh wow Laura 🙂 I thought someone else might do authors/writers.

      Im making my way through the list of bloggers at the moment, so will hopefully come across yours soon honey 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by xx


  5. Thick skin? As a teen I was all set to go into acting and the reason I eventually didn’t was that I knew my skin wouldn’t be thick enough even then! Hopefully, time has helped my skin thicken, but criticism still hurts. I think it’s differentiating, as Rebecca said, between those who are just being spiteful and those who are reviewing properly. constructive criticism is always useful – spite is irrelevant. The trouble is, we are more likely to believe the bad than we are the good – the nasty comments just serve to feed our Mr Scribble! (Or whatever he was called!)


  6. Need to be like plated like the turtle…skin is soooo delicate.
    Do like his concept of “planning the path of the book in my head before I write the last sentence of the novel.” It makes sense and keeps thing cohesive. And the head-work writing to me sorts things out easier before actual concrete words


  7. “I have pretty thick skin and I think if you’re going to be in this business, if you’re going to be an actor or a writer, you better have a thick skin.”

    That is so true! Good luck with the rest of the challenge 🙂


  8. As a fellow native New Hampshire-ite, I have to say I’m pleased as punch you chose John Irving for this post. I think most, if not all, New Hampshire schools teaches his books on a regular basis. He’s a great writer.


    • What I’ve discovered doing this theme for the challenge is that there are all these great authors out there, who I knew absolutely nothing about! Lol

      Thanks Cheryl, I think I’m going o give it a go too! 🙂



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