I’m at that tentative stage. The exciting. mystifying stage of beginning a new novel. I dread what’s to come. The struggle to put manners on an idea that seems wonderful when it’s first scrawled on paper but has as many holes as a Swiss cheese. I dread the long hours, the obsessive thought process, the rewrites, the abandonment of sections and subplots I love but have become redundant to my story. I dread the effort of dragging my mind from the antics of imaginary characters back into the real world and the realisation that time spent with a duster and broom would leave me with far more energy at the end of the day. I dread the struggle to create a structure on which I can balance my narrative and make it so solid it will guide me towards those welcoming words The End. But all those things I dread are also what I love about writing a novel – and is the reason why, once again, I’m about to turn my thoughts inwards and create a landscape where anything is possible.
As I immerse myself in this new book, my latest novel Sleep Sister is about to be launched. This is a reworking of a novel I wrote some years ago (titled When The Bough Breaks) and always longed to extend. Working through it again has been an unusual experience. I could remember the story but not how I brought it together and, as I read through it, I felt as if I was reading a book written by a stranger – but one who was uncomfortably familiar to me. The same sensation came over me when I listened to the audio book, which is being released with Sleep Sister. The narrator, Marcella Riordan, read with such sensitivity that, once again, the words I’d written seemed to belong to someone else. I could detach myself and just listen, drifting on the sound of her lovely voice.
Letting a book go and starting a new one is like waving goodbye to much loved friends – and opening the door to a group of dysfunctional characters, who will torment me until they fall into line and learn to behave. Opening that door is the hardest part. My husband says he’s heard it all before, the moaning and groaning, the vows to take up bog snorkelling or sky diving as an easier option to writing, my sudden interest in brushing cobwebs from the ceiling and looking at paint charts because we really really need to paint the garden shed door, my belief that this book is the worst ever – and there’s absolutely no way I’ll be able to bring it to a conclusion. I refuse to believe I’ve said or done these things in the past - but I suspect he’s right. Is there a link here to childbirth? The pain of bringing forth – and, then, the bliss of forgetting?