In the interests of honesty, the following quotation isn’t one I ‘randomly’ came upon during my morning dip into Mrs Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary. I deliberately searched for it. I know the book well enough to roughly recall where to look for what I need when it’s specific.
Two chapters away from finishing my fourth novel, Only May, I’m acutely aware of how I need to take it slowly and get it right. This is the shortest book I’ve written, the most compact in terms of scale. It takes place over the course of the month of May. Four weeks to tell a story doesn’t afford a lot of leeway to create a viable plot. It’s easy to obsess over the minutiae, at the expense of moving the story on. And because it’s a little lighter, wordwise, the temptation to rush is ever present.
“I shall solve it somehow, I suppose. Then I must go on to the question of quality. I think I may run too fast and free and so be rather thin.“
What with one lockdown and another, I’ve found it easy to stick to a writing schedule. In fact, I’ve been up with birds these past few weeks, eager to see what my feathered friends have left for me. They haven’t disappointed.
The best thing about writing a novel is the way, in spite of the fear, there comes a point when you allow yourself to believe it might be working. For a while, when I hit the halfway mark I’d convinced myself I was kidding myself. And it was a character who saved me – one who I had initially introduced simply as a convenient hook to hang my central character’s dawning realisation on: her conviction that things were not as they seemed. She has developed into a crucial reality and a woman of solid substance.
The fear by the way is real. I’ve scribbled about it before. How sneaky it is, how insidious. And yet how necessary. Once we begin believing, because we’ve had three books (pick a number) published, we might be a legend in our own lunchtime, we’ve lost our way.
Which bring me neatly to ‘the question of quality‘ Mrs W refers to. She means editing. She means structure and shape and how the thing sits on the page. Wordcount notwithstanding, once I have these final chapters down, I shall have to mess it up. (Technical publishing term – honestly.)
May is my new favourite (sorry Other Characters) largely because she has challenged me. For a while I wasn’t sure where we were going. She did. I’m so pleased I trusted her.
Yet again, I write this largely for myself. Keeping this somewhat random record of my writing process does help keep me focused. And afloat.
A few weeks ago I went wild swimming in a beautiful lake with an island at its centre where swans breed & raise their young. It was both idyllic & therapeutic. I’ve missed swimming & it was a treat to be in the water. Good for my body & my psyche.
Swimming is like riding a bike – you really don’t forget how to stay afloat. And staying afloat as a writer is a similar experience. As I’ve mentioned before, owing to unexpected health issues, my hwyl for my craft has taken a few knocks recently but as not writing is only ever a short, temporary option for me, it does come back.
The plan I mentioned in my previous post worked well. New Moon. Show up. Crack on. I’ve even taken to word counting again, mostly to encourage myself. I’m now past the halfway stage – ‘over the hump’ as a sister writer calls it. Out of the shallows, I say, swimming not floundering.
And I’m ready to tell you what I’ve finally decided to call this new story: Only May, a tale of lies & liars, secrets & bees… There may be ghosts…
I love it very much & wish only to do my characters justice. And finish it! In particular, I want to do my best for May herself. A girl who charmed me from the moment I ‘met’ her, last May, driving home from the dentist when the hawthorn was in bloom. For the most part, May is telling the story. Her voice above everyone else’s leads it. So yes – show up, crack on, etc.
If I’ve done it three times, surely, I can do it again? This then is my world. These are my words; these are my books.
‘Hello Book 4 my old friend…’ are words I have uttered over the past month, on too many occasions to record. Each rekindling of the relationship with my newest story has been brief. The ups & downs of my personal hibernating life mean there have been too many days when my current story has languished. The result: too few reasons to write a blog post. I guess it’s a symptom of the current zeitgeist; like everyone else, writers are under pressure of one kind & another. Add unexpected drama into my particular mix & is it any wonder I’ve been tardy?
In précis: I’ve been hors de combat.
Unexpectedly & not without a little drama. The one is boring, the other – well, dear reader, who knew one small fall could result in so many bruises! Recovering well now, I finally find I need to chat, to myself if to no one else, about my newest foray into storytelling.
Had I been told, in 2016 when Ghostbird was published, that four & a half years later I’d be writing my fourth novel, I’d have imagined someone was kidding. And yet here I am, almost 40k into an odd little tale I’m growing extremely fond of. Considering I’ve been writing it since last year though, 40k is a meagre wordcount. Before lockdown, because I was sure of the story’s simplicity, I believed I would have a first draft done in a few months. Ha!
Another thing I’m learning about this writing lark is, when a story exists on a very small canvas, the intricacies become more crucial. Intimacy requires as much attention to detail as any sweeping saga. In addition, I’m being ‘told’ by my characters what they want to do (it was ever thus.) Plot tangents have flung themselves into the mix with gay abandon; new characters charm me & a far better version of the end lifts my heart. But even though I have all this – literally: a beginning, a middle & an end – I somehow find myself stuck on pause. I’m back & forth through what I have already written, faffing & rewriting, endlessly (unless I’m not – cos ‘drama’) playing with ‘perfection’ rather than moving the story on. I am continually haunted by the ghosts of words already written: ones sitting nicely on the page, thank you very much.
For goodness sake, woman, be brave! Write another, fresh, 40k!
Essentially, I’m elevating my ‘edit as I go’ inclination to new & ridiculous heights. Fear of failure is a factor for sure (sorry/not sorry: excessive alliteration.) Goes with the territory. Largely, I suspect it’s a case of ‘drama’ in a time of lockdown causing creatus interruptus. I may have to conjure a plan.
Checking my desk diary, I see the number “99” – circled. (I was never going to make a thing of an even number now was I?) Day ninety-nine then, in my personal cycle of hibernation & I also checked how long it’s been since I wrote anything here. Two guest posts notwithstanding, the last time I scribbled a word about my writing was 26 April!
Nine weeks then & I’m still avoiding words like ‘isolation’ & ‘lockdown’ simply because I feel neither isolated nor locked down. After however many weeks ninety-nine days add up to, some days I do feel alone. And much as I insist (truthfully) that being this way is second nature to me – I’m a writer, it’s what we do – ninety-nine days in, I’m missing certain people.
Mrs Woolf had a few perfect words for it. On the matter of ‘certain friends’ she wrote: I love them when they aren’t there – they leave beautiful spaces behind them.’
Family notwithstanding (when I finally get to hug my daughter, she will need to check her ribs) it’s my friends I miss. Not least the ones who write, those whose idea of heaven is hanging out, over tea & cake, nattering about writing.
With the plot of my newest endeavour flinging itself off on the inevitable tangents, I miss my writing group so much, Thursdays now feel like lost days. Not entirely – Janey (Eliza Jane Tulley) & I converse regularly. But it is never going to be the same as sitting opposite one another in our favourite cafe, notebooks on the side, ready to disseminate our latest offerings. That ‘beautiful space’ at our special table, is hers & mine.
And so I press on – by myself – occasionally startled by the moments my imagination conjures for this new story. It’s so off the wall quirky anyway, the digressions barely faze me. Being able to explain them (or ask Janey for her input) is still a true frustration.
Okay – this new one. I was going to say I thought long & hard about writing a story largely in First Person Present. It isn’t true. I thought about not doingit for as long as it took to rewrite the first chapter in Third Person & realise my instinct was right. FPP it is. And I love it. It’s challenging & even though the going is far, far slower than I first envisioned, I am making progress with my quirky story.
It too takes up a beautiful space, the writing space I have to fill because not writing isn’t an option. A space I know, were she around to see me loving this story, Janey would get.
When it comes to fictional female characters, I make no secret of my admiration for staunch women, not least those who look adversity in the eye & give as good as they get. As a feminist who writes them, I want to read them too. And in The Ferryman’s Daughter, by Juliet Greenwood – her first novel for Orion Books, published 14th May 2020 – I was delighted to encounter the redoubtable Hester Pearce.
I gave Juliet carte blanche to describe how both fictional and real life strong women inspired and influenced her wonderful heroine. Thank you & over to you, Juliet!
My inspiration for Hester, the heroine of my first book for Orion, The Ferryman’s Daughter, originated in a real-life woman I’ve been itching to weave into a story for years. The moment Hester appeared, with her passion for cooking and her determination to set up her own cafe against the odds, I knew she was the one.
Hester’s real life inspiration was Rosa Lewis, who was the basis for the popular TV series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which first ran in the 1970s, but is still repeated here in the UK. Born in the Victorian era, when a woman was expected to be simply the shadow of a husband, with no legal existence of her own, Rosa Lewis was one of those who rebelled. Although she started life as a kitchen maid, she rose by means of skill and hard work to be a renowned chef, including for royalty, and eventually becoming the owner of her own hotel in London. Not to mention a possible affair with the Prince of Wales, but that’s another story …
From the moment I heard about her as a teenager, I loved Rosa Lewis for her determination and becoming a self-made woman. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s, there were very few female role models. The expectation was still that women worked for a few years until they married, then retreated into domestic invisibility as housewives, or with low-paid part-time jobs to fit in around childcare. It’s sometimes hard to remember that it’s so recently that a woman couldn’t even get a credit card or a mortgage without a male signature.
Rosa Lewis pointed me the way towards the many astute and determined women in the Victorian and Edward period whose stories have been forgotten or brushed under the carpet, but are now finally being told. When I started to read more about her life and times, I found many more stubborn and fearless women (many of them happily married to husbands who adored and supported them) who ran businesses, refused to allow an entire establishment ranged against them to prevent them from becoming doctors, and ran daring campaigns as social reformers – despite being faced with insults and missiles and sometimes physical danger. Social reformer Josephine Butler even narrowly escaped gang rape and a building set alight around her as she campaigned to prevent thirteen-year-old young girls being registered as prostitutes, to be trafficked as sex workers all across Europe. Some of her descriptions of the victims of such abuse, some as young as five, are utterly heartbreaking. It might have taken time, but, with the support of Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the suffrage movement, her utter determination did eventually win.
So when Hester came sweeping into my life, she was also inspired by the many brave and astute women who lived around the same time as Rosa Lewis. Reading their memoirs and their diary entries, the hopes and dreams and frustrations of young women of that era from all social classes feel little different from those of women today. Like Hester, they have a deep longing to be loved, but also to have a life of their own. To follow a passion. To also be the one to walk in the sun.
I loved every moment of my time spent with Hester, as she battled through to keep her brother and sister safe and her dream of love and independence alive. In many ways, she was the role model my teenage self was looking for, and might have felt a little braver going for her own dreams and pursuing her own passion, knowing that (unlike all the messages around me) it could be done.
My first book for Orion is set on the Hayle Estuary, near St Ives in Cornwall, at the time of the Great War. It is the story of Hester, who is forced to take over the family business of rowing the ferry across the river to keep a roof over their heads. But Hester has a dream of one day becoming a professional cook and opening her own establishment in St Ives, so creating a better life for herself and her family. Even with everything against her, Hester remains determined to succeed …
The Ferryman’s Daughter
Can Hester help her family escape desperate poverty and fulfil her dreams?
1908: Hester always loved her mother best, her father had always been a hard man to like, spending more time (and money) in the local than with his family. After her mother’s sudden death, followed by an injury forcing her father to give up his job as the ferryman, Hester is placed in the position of care-giver for her young brother and sister.
As the years pass Hester must row the ferry night and day to keep them all from starvation, while her hopes of working in a kitchen and one day becoming a cook, slip further and further away.
But just how far is Hester willing to go to make her dream a reality? And as the threat of war comes ever closer to the Cornish coast, will it bring opportunities or despair for Hester and her family?
Juliet Greenwood has always been a bookworm and a storyteller, writing her first novel (a sweeping historical epic) at the age of ten. She is fascinated both by her Celtic heritage and the history of the women in her family, with her great-grandmother having supported her family by nail making in Lye, in the Black Country, near Birmingham in the UK, and her grandmother by working as a cook in a large country house.
Before being published by Orion, Juliet wrote three historical novels for Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, reaching #4 and #5 in the UK kindle store.
Juliet lives in a traditional quarryman’s cottage between the mountains and the sea in beautiful Snowdonia, in Wales in the UK, and is to be found dog walking in all weathers, always with a camera to hand…
Early twentieth century fictional heroines, viewed through the reading lens of twenty-first century women, have a tendency to leave those of us of a feminist persuasion, sighing in frustration as the ‘poverty-stricken, uneducated, desperate’ heroine falters at the feet of some unscrupulous, conniving, controlling man. (I’ve lost count of the times I’ve yelled at the pages of a historical novel, ‘No! Don’t do that – you don’t have to do that!’)
It was ever thus. And tends to get predictable. Backbone, in my experience, is sadly lacking in the traditional, modern historical novel. The kind that stiffens the spine of the indomitable Hester Pearce, in The Ferryman’s Daughter is a joy to encounter. And were 21st century me able to time travel back and meet her, she’d soon have me nodding my approval.
The Ferryman’s Daughter explores realities for women in the early 1900s and shows how they don’t always capitulate to the accepted mores of the time. Hester is a new girl (woman) on the block and her presence is a breath of Cornish fresh air. After her mother dies and her father – the titular ferryman – has an accident, it is down to Hester to keep her family together. That she does this, literally, against every odd known to ‘desperate’ historical novel womankind is the essence of this book. And there is nothing contrived about Hester’s quiet heroism, her determination to be fearless, even when she scared half to death.
The deeply menacing presence of Jimmy Harkness, arrogant in his assumption that Hester will succumb to his advances because she has no choice, is a revealing portrait of the kind of man women have always had to deal with, and still do. These days however it’s acceptable for us to say ‘No’ and have that wish respected. In the early 1900s, with a war on the horizon, it was a brave young woman who stood her ground and resisted the terror tactics of a man bent on her subjugation and humiliation. Hester does this and we applaud her, because over a century apart, she is us. There is plenty of tension – the author knows her craft and paces the book perfectly – moments when we genuinely fear for Hester. But she isn’t raped or battered or left for dead. She fights back and fights hard. Hester Pearce is a fictional heroine for her time and ours.
There are other heroines in this book too – women with the privileges and education Hester is denied. And this is the other splendid aspect of The Ferryman’s Daughter. These women aren’t snobs, they don’t parade their birthright or advantages; they’re supportive of each other’s endeavours, embracing an equality which Hester gradually comes to appreciate and accept. The relationships between Hester and Clara Trewarren, the daughter of gentry, and later with the enigmatic Miss Chesterfield, are both beautifully rendered. And Hester’s mother, who tried to teach her she was as good as anyone, that no dream was too big to be realised, remains, long after her death the core of Hester’s courage.
The Ferryman’s Daughter is a tour de force – it turns the concept of the traditional historical novel on its head, showing us how, like women today, there have always been smart, audacious, feisty women prepared to defy convention. Women with backbone – women whose instinct shapes their view of themselves as gutsy and capable.
There isn’t a single simpering woman in the entire book, and it is a better, more authentic and satisfying reading experience for it.
It’s a strange time for authors to be letting their new books loose into the world, not least debuts. Lockdown means a very different approach to publishing. So, this month it’s a genuine delight to invite Jan Baynham to be my guest. Jan is one of the most hardworking writers I know – my admiration for her is boundless. She’s also great fun, kind & incredibly generous towards other writers. Her debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret was published on 21 April by Ruby Fiction.
The book is described by the publisher as, ‘A wonderful sixties saga from a promising new talent’ & I couldn’t agree more. I asked Jan to share some of her thoughts on her path to publication. So, without further ado – over to you, Jan!
It was September 2015, my first visit to Tenby Book Fair, as it was called then. I got talking to Carol who’d signed a contract for her debut novel, ‘Ghostbird’, to be published by Honno the following March. I was about halfway through the initial draft of my first novel and loving the buzz of writing. My dream of becoming a published author was just starting to lurk at the back of my mind, with me never really thinking it would happen.
I came very late to the party having only started writing fiction when I retired. At that first meeting, Carol’s excitement and enthusiasm for what she had achieved shone through and was a definite motivating factor in my journey to publication. Our genres could not be more different, but her attitude and sheer delight in writing influenced me a great deal. She has been very supportive ever since even though we’ve actually met in person a mere handful of times at book fairs and literary festivals.
I started to build on what I’d learned on the novel writing workshop I’d taken the previous year, taking on board recommendations for workshops and reading articles about honing the craft of writing. A turning point for me was when I was invited to join a local Chapter meeting of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in Cardiff. My novel wasn’t a romance, but it had a love interest in it so in January 2016 I joined the association’s New Writers’ Scheme. In it, published authors critique your manuscript and give detailed feedback.
That first critique gave me both the confidence to carry on and plenty of advice as to how to edit the manuscript to become a tighter novel. Once I started submitting to publishers, I had to deal with rejection. It was always a disappointment and the wait could be endless, but once the rejections started to contain feedback rather than a ‘thanks but no thanks’, I knew I was making progress. My dream of publication was moving closer. Words like ’perhaps’, ‘maybe’ were entering my thoughts. I’d joke with friends that if it did happen, I’d be the oldest debut novelist!
‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was taken up quite quickly in the end. I had a one-to-one session with a publisher at the RNA Conference in 2018 who asked me to submit the finished manuscript. After reading it and giving positive feedback, she sent it to the company’s submissions panel, so I was one step further again towards publication. They did finally reject it but sent such detailed feedback that I worked on and Ruby Fiction offered me a contact in May 2019. Because the novel is mainly set in Greece, there wasn’t time for it to be published and marketed for the summer season last year, but I achieved my dream of becoming a published author in April 2020. It was both exciting and nerve-wracking, but I did it! My advice to anyone reading this is never give up. It’s never too late!
Thank you, Jan for taking time to chat! Best wishes for your book – I hope it flies!
My review: For a story that, on the face of it, might appear to be a light summer read, Her Mother’s Secret is as dramatic as it is entertaining. In her debut novel, Jan Baynham lends an assured confidence to the traditional ‘love story’. Yes, it’s very much a love story, but there are dark dealings & darker agendas lending the book a crucial edge; a sense of excitement that never lets up.
In 1969, Elin Morgan, an art student, arrives on the Greek island of Péfka to attend a painting school run by a famous artist. The sun beats down on the idyllic setting but in the shadows lurks a grimmer story. In true 60s style it features sex & drugs (drug dealers) & one assumes, rock ‘n roll! Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter, Lexi follows in her mother’s footsteps, in search of the secrets hinted at in a diary belonging to Elin.
The author’s love for & knowledge of Greek society & customs shines through, giving the book an air of authenticity. And Her Mother’s Secret is redolent with vivid descriptions. The Greek family dynamics are beautifully observed; a sense of quiet menace ripples beneath the surface as Elin becomes embroiled in chaos, love, family drama & murder. And two decades later, Lexi discovers that some love stories never end. This a well observed story; contemporary & light but with a depth that suggests a fresh, new talent.
The weather is glorious. Clear blue skies & a bird song soundtrack, tempting me out of doors. Not a day passes when I don’t feel grateful to live in a small rural town with access to the countryside. Not that I’m walking in all my favourite places. Staying safe never felt more crucial.
In these locked down days you’d be forgiven for thinking a vast number of words have been written. However, like my physical rambling, the writing mileage has been abbreviated too. Although I’m showing up most days, my train of thought has been interrupted. Instead of pushing on with the story, I’m obsessing over the first few chapters, rearranging the same words on the page, indulging my inner perfectionist. And when I’m not doing that, I’m veering off into the nineteen-fifties, researching village school education, chapel graveyards & the business of bees. (Did I not tell you? There are bees in this book. Magical ones…)
In this new, unreal reality the best I can do is validate the way I’m currently working because it’s better than not working at all.
It’s my habit to open Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary each morning, at random. This, from 1935 was yesterday’s offering.
A very fine skyblue day, my windows completely filled with blue for a wonder … And I have been writing and writing and rewriting the scene … What I want to do is reduce it all so that each sentence, though perfectly natural dialogue, has a great pressure of meaning behind it.
There’s only so much fine-tuning I can do though, before I shall be forced to crack on. It’s not as if I don’t know what comes next. I know a good deal about this story. My central character is smart & wild. The aforementioned bees talk to her. And this book has chapter headings which I have never written before although I’ve always fancied the idea. It has a title too, which pleases me hugely. A title I’m happy with connects me to the book; makes it feel more substantial, even though, in terms of word count, it isn’t.
Time enough to worry about how many words. What matters is there are some. And in these extended alone times, I ‘need not’ – to quote Mrs Woolf again – ‘think of anybody.’ I can be myself, by myself…
For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others … and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.
From: To the Lighthouse
The strangest adventure indeed. If I only scribble half a page of notes each day, or rewrite the opening to chapter whatever seventy-billion times, I’m doing something.
Being present, chewing the end of my pencil, staring out into the skyblue day…
Along with many writers, I’m in semi-hibernation. Because I live in a rural area with a lovely walk almost on my doorstep I’m able to get out for a solitary saunter each day.
I’m managing to write too – most days at any rate & the new story is slowly unfolding. I feel blessed.
As is the case for many recently released books, my latest is fending for itself the best it can. Under the current circumstances all I or my publisher can do is promote as much as possible. I’ve had some wonderful support from other authors so this post is my way of saying thank you & returning the favour.
Titles marked* are ones I’ve read & highly recommend.
A few of you who follow me may recall my somewhat occasional & fanciful notion that Virginia Woolf is my muse. My admiration for her writing has sometimes led me to place imaginary trays of tea & buns outside her metaphorical door, with the aim of persuading her to lend her genius to my lesser & more lowly pursuits.
In other, more realistic, muse-related ramblings, I call on my word birds. And let’s be honest, they’re far more likely to aid me than the ghost of Mrs Woolf.
In these odd times, I confess to having struggled over the past week. Largely due to political shenanigans. (Let’s not dwell – this is a blog about my work, not my ‘men in grey suits where are all the women and the joined-up thinking?‘ observations.) Trying to get my old head around the new regime & telling myself, there is always the new story to write!
The interwebs have been awash with writer-focused memes, not least the one about how Will Shakespeare penned both King Lear & Macbeth during the plague. Aimed, I’m sure, at reassuring us that all we need to do is ignore the firestorm, hibernate, knuckle down & crack on with the latest book. All well & good but the reality is, anxiety is a poor bedfellow for the muse.
I’m hearing many stories, online & from my writer friends, about how they’re struggling to concentrate. How the plan to use this enforced time of solitary existence to write is already falling by the wayside.
A few weeks ago I began writing my fourth book. I love it to bits & if it isn’t quite writing itself (that would be a trick worthy of a witchy woman!) it is coming along nicely. Having lost some of my hwyl for the act of writing per se, rather than the story, I know this is a crucial moment. It’s an opportunity to write a story that wants to be written. No excuse not to. There are weeks, possibly months of this hibernating lark ahead of me so a grip must be got!
A myriad muses (musii?) for all my writer friends! And whether the shade of Mrs W likes it or not, I’m calling up one of my favourites quotes.
Onward & sideways as my mum used to say. Apposite on Mother’s Day too! I kissed her picture this morning & like to imagine, she kissed me back.
It’s an old witchy saying although it could just as easily apply to writers. Days were when we guarded our stories like a dragon guards its gold. Now, in a world where we blog our little hearts out, we give a lot more away.
I know I do. A few years ago I would no more share a story I was currently planning than I would my toothbrush. And yet, since I began blogging here – about five years give or take – I’ve shared more & more of not only the process of my writing but the content. It’s something to do with new notions of networking I think. Social media sharing has become massive.
These past two weeks I’ve felt very exposed, albeit in a joyful, just been published again way. The blog tour for Wild Spinning Girls has been a triumph, the reviews gratifying & in some cases mindblowing. And I was featured in the local paper too!
It’s all been about me & my book, which is wonderful & hopefully, the exposure will translate into sales & more reviews.
It’s another ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ thing though, isn’t it? A writer is only as good as her next book? And I’ve been banging on about my fourth, back & forth & undecided, until I’ve made my own head spin. A few weeks ago I was categorical. My next book would be the one about the river. The one I’ve been writing since 2012, on & off. I went back to it while I was in the countdown to WSG coming out, pottering & revising, revising, revising… And then I felt it, like a blow: the loss of what the Welsh call hwyl – a sense of motivational energy that stirs the soul. My soul, was drained because something else was stirring.
Back in January, talking about the River book, I wrote, ‘…why would I abandon over 80k anyway? You only do that if the story has no legs.’
I fear not only have the legs fallen off, so have the wheels. During two conversations with two different people, each of them beautifully & coherently said things that perfectly ‘named’ where I find myself. The first was said by a writer friend who has known this oscillating story from its inception. She said, ‘[this book] is the ghost of the writer you were … she flits in and out between books, tempting and taunting you to take a step back into that time when it was all still ahead of you.’
These words fed seamlessly into the ones uttered by my mentor when we caught up recently & I tried to explain my ‘dilemma’ to her. What do I write next? Stick with ‘River’ or write the one that’s now nagging rather than whispering. In what was almost an echo of my friend, she said, ‘River is the story your other books bounce off.’ And went on to reassure me that nothing is wasted, that putting away the old in order to make room for the new – not least when the hwyl for it is very definitely there – is as much about author instinct as anything else.
There we are then. In July last year, I wrote this: ‘… there’s another one. A new story that excites me so much I can’t stop thinking about it.’ It does so yes, I’m going to write that one. #Book4.
And say very little about it until it feels real… Go underground for a while & trust the muse.