"The writer can chose what he writes about, but he cannot chose what he is able to bring to life."
In the course of researching that article, I ran into a few other things Flannery had to say about writing and about mystery. What follows amounts to a guest column, typed (and commented upon) by me but "ghost written" by Ms. O'Connor.
"Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it is very shocking to the system." (Amen.)
"The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention."
"Art never responds to the wish to make it more democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those willing to undertake the effort to understand it."
"Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do." (Ouch.)
"People without hope not only don't write novels, but what is more to the point, they don't read them."
"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." (Nancy Pelosi may have lifted this.)
"Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and it you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not grand enough for you."
"Not writing is a good deal worse than writing."
"Mystery isn't something that is gradually evaporating. It grows along with knowledge." (My amateur sleuth, Owen Keane, is now nodding his head.)
"Remember that you don't write a story because you have an idea but because you have a character."
"There is a certain embarrassment about being a storyteller in these times when stories are considered not quite as satisfying as statements and statements not quite as satisfying as statistics; but in the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells."
"I am a writer because writing is the best thing I do."