I think of the creative process as a courting of revelation. I am aware that there is a difference between invention (which is an integral part of the process) and the imagination (which precipitates and sustains everything).The impulse is ignited by a voice, a dream, an intuition, a memory... In other words, irresistibly affected by a sudden tear in the fabric of things, I am made to write. The work begins with its own potentiality and its own weather. It imposes its own needs for consistency and illumination. It is from the start an event that needs room (the space of a book). It is its own phenomenon. It is radical, a radical departure, and it is self-generating. So I am something like a cross between a spectator and a conspirator. I work rigorously and intuitively to be worthy of the ‘weather’ that has overtaken me. To find the proper vehicle, give it form, conserve the initial momentum, fulfill the initial promise. When I was working on The Fountains of Neptune—a novel generated under the sign of water by a dream of a drowning— I was possessed by the stories of the Belgian writer Jean Ray (who writes so admirably in French). Jean Ray and Melville were my companions; we were in conversation. From the start I knew the text needed to convey the mutable and reflective aspects of water. The book’s narrator has awakened from a fifty years sleep only to enter into the dream we call the real. Writing that book was a lot like singing.
Companionless, therefore, on that December morning on the edge of Christmas, I set off in the slush—for there was a drizzle to the day and the heavy snows of Saturday night and Sunday morning were sliding off the rooftops and into the gutters with a hiss.