This week’s highlight is a particularly nice one involving a guest appearance on Isabel Costello’s illustrious Literary Sofa. Like Virginia Woolf, I don’t believe in ageing per se and favour her inclination to ‘change my aspect to the sun.’ Writing a piece about being published ‘in later life’ was an exercise in acceptance. I am grateful to Isabel for the opportunity.
For the rest, I’ve been picking away at my SisterBook, managing at best a thousand words a day. I put it down to reclaiming routine after the excitement of being published and launched but sense this is about to change. I have it all – all but the filler and the nuances. At least I think I do. One of my characters – whose nature it is to assert herself – is leading me into the dark wood, so to speak. I have a pocketful of breadcrumbs, just in case.
What concerns me most though is the quality of this new story and my fear that I may be repeating myself.
With Ghostbird, I never set out to write a ghost story and it took me a while to realise I was. Now I’ve embraced the ‘genre’ I love it. In terms of formula, a ghost story must naturally have a ghost. Readers need to be a bit (or a lot) scared. And teenagers (yes, I’m writing two teenage main protagonists this time), not least those living in remote houses in the middle of nowhere with eccentric mothers, are likely to run wild and be a bit ‘odd.’
So, what do I have? Another ghost story for sure. (“If you liked that you’ll love this?” Readers are renowned for wanting more of the same.) But when does familiarity become tedious or clichéd? I remind myself that the crime writer also follows a formula: Body! Murder! Investigation (maybe a maverick cop), red herrings and so forth. A love story insists that girl meets boy (or variations on this theme), obstacles to true love abound; misunderstanding and duplicity bedevil the lovers until the truth outs and they fall into one another arms.
Although I confess to liking some love interest in my own stories – love is all around us and so forth – the conventional ones hold little appeal for me. I’m drawn to flawed women and the men they often attract: it’s the survivors of ill-advised love stories that intrigue me. I write about the aftermath of these relationships and the women who, for whatever reason, proved too much for men lacking the emotional stamina for the dance. I write about the daughters of these unions and although it was never my intention, somehow now find myself making them the centre of my stories.
And then there are the ghosts…
In no way am I saying the way to make sense of your life – in the event your mother is slightly mad and you’ve grown up without a father – is to encounter a haunting. Far from it – in the real world it’s probably the last thing you need. But fortunately, fiction isn’t the real world. It’s the world of the imagination and making it up and I can create whatever situations and scenarios I choose!
Time will tell if I’m repeating myself or not…