Since I still can’t face the task of rewriting my second novel – it was the first that was shortlisted for the Mslexia prize – I’ve decided to allow it a little longer to brood in its darkened drawer. It takes up little space and doesn’t eat anything, so why not? It’ll either improve with age or become so rotten I’ll have no choice but to bin it. Either way, the decision will be easier.
This means I find myself in position of being about to begin something new. In my last blog, I wrote that I had decided to stop second guessing myself, to stop figuring out what the market, publishers or editors might want. Even so, I’m still at a bit of an impasse.
My first book took around 3 years and the second not much less. During those years I ate, worked, slept and dreamed with my characters and their problems.
LETTERS TO G., the novel for which I was shortlisted, switches between the recovery of a drug addict in present day Amsterdam and the Burma-Thailand Japanese POW camps during WWII.
My second novel was intended as a literary take on the gothic horror story. MR James meets Mary Shelley meets David Lynch. While I firmly believe it has its merits, it would be an understatement to say that a lot of deeply unpleasant things happen, and the main character, Thomas, a young doctor in 1870’s England, suffers for love nearly the whole book through.
The first book was a struggle. Much of the work took place in a shed in the Wiltshire countryside. I gave it my all and made the mistake of putting my life on hold in the process, which meant the non-writing part of me ended up frustrated. But the second book! When I think about writing it, it seems like it was always winter, that it was always dark, and my Berlin apartment was always several degrees below freezing. In my memory, a black mist seems to pervade that time.
I suppose I was depressed, and while there are many reasons why that was so, I can’t shake the feeling that the darkness that swathes the characters in that book had seeped into my life; that by writing about evil, and a place it might come from, I somehow welcomed it in like a vampire, and suffered the consequences.
All of which makes me want to write my new novel about happy puppies, people who win the lottery and find uncomplicated true love, or who work on their allotments and are valued within their communities. I want to choose wise characters who love life, who are not frightened of other people or of experiencing joy. A positive tour de force! A heart-warming, laugh out loud romp!
Nothing, say, about someone suffering a terminal illness alone on a desert island while being persecuted by enormous bees.
So, in order to test out some ideas and give myself the opportunity to think long and hard before embarking on a 3 year marriage to any of them, I’m going to use the rest of April to write the synopses for as many potential novels as possible; books I’ll never write, books that should probably never be written. And goddamnit I’m going to have some fun doing so!