Island Life, Word Birds & Process
My word birds have been playing games. It seems that way at any rate & I find myself pondering their tendency for conspiracy. (Most of them are corvids – cheeky tricksters up to no good & in love with a lark.) Lately I feel certain they have been challenging my patience, & my attitude to chance or the haphazard nature of fictional fate.
Most people experience instances of unexpected synchronicity. Those moments which some refer to as coincidence & others prefer to attach relevance to. I’m firmly in the latter camp – I’m suspicious of coincidence & like to believe that however small, when these moments crop up, however small, they’re significant. It delights me when, at exactly the second someone on the radio says the word ineffable, I’m in the middle of typing it.
Since becoming a proper writer (as in published) I’ve noticed these points of reference taking on an aspect that makes me think there might be a special kind of synchronicity reserved for writers.
The brilliant Louise Beech’s first book, How To Be Brave, about a woman’s experience of having a young child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes instantly reflected my little granddaughter’s diagnosis. When Louise published The Mountain In My Shoe, which deals with cared for children, something similar happened. Fostering children has featured hugely in my immediate family. This was reading books however; what about writing them? Before I read it I’d already decided to use the framing device Louise employs in TMIMS in my second book, The Snow Sisters. Okay – lots of writers use it but still, it struck me at the very least as relative.
When I began writing my third novel, the central character was called Grace. At some point (for no reason I ever completely fathomed) I decided to change it to Della. When Rebecca Mascull began promoting her latest book, The Wild Air, I spotted her heroine’s name was Della. When I mentioned it (I’m a polite writer), Rebecca was generosity itself & said go ahead – no worries – use it. (In the end, I changed it back to Grace because, frankly, Della was never my character’s name.) For the purpose of making my contemporaneous point, I’m adding here that Rebecca kindly wrote one of the endorsements for my first book, Ghostbird.
Move on to the deliciousness that is Sealskin by Su Bristow. A proof copy of this book was offered to me by Karen Sullivan (of Orenda Books) who coincidentally (not!) publishes Louise. Karen thought I might like it & would I give her a quote for the jacket. Sealskin is a gorgeous retelling of the myth of the selkie. My third book (& the Adventures of Grace Who Is No Longer Della) features a selkie. Not a creature from the sea; mine is from a river & other than being a creature from legend, bears little resemblance to Su’s evocative creation. It’s still a selkie story though & at the time I was offered the book I was deep in my own selkie research.
What are the chances any of these instances will occur? The answer is of course, I have no idea. I am honoured that the ones I reference connect to a group of writers for whom my admiration knows no bounds! And who have each, in her own way, offered me huge support as a writer. (Karen agreed with me about this strangeness by the way – how writers can sometimes be unconsciously on the same trajectory, sharing moments of unexpected synchronicity.)
There’s another one, dear reader.
One of my most recent reads has been the magical, The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn. Judith, who has shown me unutterable kindness, also wrote a wonderful endorsement for Ghostbird. The first thing I spotted in TEOT was her heroine’s name: Pearl. Would you believe me if I told you it’s the name I planned on giving a character in my fourth book? Add Lola (a dog) also the name of Grace’s cat (& my daughter’s dog) a grandmother called Kitty (the name of Grace’s first love) & frankly the only question is: what are the chances of any of this happening?
It’ll all come out in the wash of course. I’ve already ditched my Pearl sans qualm & Kitty can go too. I shall however have to have a chat with Judith about the dog/cat issue…
Each of these books is hugely worth your time. They are amazing.