It was my privilege on March 14, 2017, to hear author Dr. A.J. Hartley speak at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Harrisburg (NC) Library. Dr. Hartley is a man of many talents. He is the distinguished professor of Shakespeare in the Department of Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which is just several miles up the road from Harrisburg.
Dr. Hartley’s background
Dr. Hartley has published more than 20 books, ranging from academic to mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, and fantasies for adults, young adults, and middle grades. He credits the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, as being his passport out of his economically-depressed hometown of Preston, England. He read the book when he was 10 years old, and reading subsequently opened up the world to him.
His thoughts on Shakespeare
In his very entertaining and educational presentation at the library on Tuesday night, Dr. Hartley pointed out something about William Shakespeare that I had never considered before. Shakespeare lived and wrote at a time when live theatre was a big thing in London, a town then of approximately 100,000. Going to the theatre was a common activity for all spectrums of the population. Therefore, Shakespeare had to write in a way that would appeal to everyone from the illiterate to the highly educated, from the poorest to the richest in society.
His writing routine
Dr. Hartley welcomed questions from the audience. I noticed that the teens in attendance asked some of the most interesting and probing questions. He spends a lot of time walking his dog six miles-a-day, and that is when he does most of his writing. When he gets home, he types what he “wrote” in his head while he was walking. He used to just wing it, or in the lingo of writers, he was a pantser. That means he wrote without an outline. He now writes short outlines. Every writer has to find what works for them.
As a writer, the main points I came away with were the following:
- “If you’re wondering if you’re a writer, try quitting. If you can, you’re not.” – A.J. Hartley
- “Words are free.” – A.J. Hartley
- Dr. Hartley wrote fiction for 20 years before his first novel was published. I don’t know whether to take encouragement from that or not. He started at a much earlier age than I did!
Dr. Hartley’s website
If you’re interested in reading any of Dr. Hartley’s books, check with your local public library and also online. His website is ajhartley.net.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. Never pass up an opportunity to hear an author speak!