Author On the Bookcase: Mette Jakobsen
Please welcome Mette Jakobsen, author of The Vanishing Act, to On the Bookcase! Mette tells us how a documentary inspired her new novel!
When I started writing The Vanishing Act, a twelve year old girl named Minou appeared in my imagination as a fully formed character. I had her voice from the moment I realized that she was knitting scarves in a lighthouse tower at night. I fell in love with her straight away.
Of course a writer makes conscious choices when creating a work of fiction, but the process also contains a wonderful element of surprise.
The earliest thing I remember authoring was a very long story for a year five assignment. It was about a migrating bird and it filled an entire notebook. The story was so sad that I sobbed as I witnessed, with an equal amount of horror and fascination, the poor bird lose its entire family one by one, all through tragic circumstances.
Inspiration still arrives as a wonderful gift. Characters, snippets of storyline, and ideas come to me frequently. Some of these ideas might fit into what I am working on, others are put into a file I have named ‘Storeroom.’
I had been working on The Vanishing Act for a while when Minou appeared. Her arrival helped develop the rest of characters: her philosophizing papa, her imaginative mama, the pretzel making priest, as well as the magician and his scruffy circus dog No Name. With Minou’s arrival the plot developed, and so did my idea for the location of the story; a tiny island in the middle of an endless sea.
In addition to my cast of characters I added a dead boy who washes up on the beach. The boy has to stay with Minou and her papa for three days until the weekly delivery boat arrives.
This idea came from my ‘Storeroom.’ A few years earlier I had seen a documentary called Black Sun, featuring a painter who lost his sight during a violent break-in. The burglars threw acid in his face.
The painter recalls recovering in hospital, head and eyes bandaged up. He said that strangers came and sat at his bedside. They told him intimate things, confessions of sorts. In his reflections the painter puts it down to the fact that he wasn’t able to see.
I found this interesting at the time and wrote a few notes around it. Later, when writing The Vanishing Act, I used the idea of having a non-seeing, as well as non-responding character, who brings out confessions and deeper longings in Minou and her papa.
Writing to me is such a wonderful profession. It’s demanding and requires a lot of planning and strategizing, but a very pleasurable part of the process is being open to inspiration when it arrives; fleeting and sometimes ethereal.
My writing has changed since I filled an entire notebook as a child, but the element of surprise is still there. I still get up in the morning thinking ‘I wonder what my characters will do today?’
Thanks Mette! With themes of mystery and coming-of-age, The Vanishing Act makes for a great book club discussion.
Mette Jakobsen was born in Denmark in 1964. She holds degrees in philosophy and creative writing and is the author of several plays. The Vanishing Act is her first novel. She lives in Sydney, Australia.