The unlucky?, the odd?, possibly one of the strangest years of my life…
For me it’s been a year of retrospect, development and much learning. It’s not been a prosperous year in some respects, in others it has proven richer than any other.
I’ve talked with various people about this and most of us agree, the reality of writing and being a writer isn’t like we think. It is not glamorous and most of the time you catch a bit of writing time when you can. It is not all coffee shops and walnut desks looking out over fields of green, while you dream-sequence scenes and deliver them through a pen or a keyboard. When a reader sees the finished product, they are hopefully getting a smooth delivery of the story. They haven’t seen all the background work that goes into a novel. There’s a lot of it. Some of the tiny things we take for granted are the most difficult to master, such as dialogue presentation, adverbs, overuse of certain phrases, colloquialisms gone mad. I won’t bore you.
For me, my experience is that writing is consuming. Sometimes I will be at the washing-up bowl and something will hit me. A line or a thought or an idea that needs to be put in the book I am currently writing. Sometimes it is even an idea for another novel. Sometimes I try to push these ideas to the back of my mind and if they come back to haunt, they may well stick! I rarely write down notes and if I do, they are bullet points in a word doc. They are shorthand on a post-it. You’d think it’d be a gift to have a photographic memory but it’s not always, not when you’re walking down the street acting out the scene in your head and trying to hide smiles or tears from other passing people on the street! That’s how crazy this thing gets. Yes, I am barking mad! Like I said, not glamorous. Sometimes my fingers are burning by the time I get off the pavement and into a chair. If you give yourself to it truly, the stories, characters and images do not arrive when you expect them to or when you try to conjure them! They just pour out whenever they like.
The reality of this writing thing is that it is hard, really, really hard. The joy is great, but the reality is tough. It’s difficult when you’ve got family obligations, a job outside of writing, a social network that will consume all your hours if you let it! Setting yourself a deadline or a time limit is the hardest thing. However, it works.
I cannot really put into words what happened to me during the writing of A Fine Profession, which began formulating around 11 months ago. I upped my game. I can’t ever write off The Ravage Trilogy. Those books are the rawest portion of me as a writer. They are full of twists and turns, ideas and characters, locations and confrontations. It’s set in the future but it’s more a reflection of the world as it is now. When you’ve worked in the media, you do see words in a different way. You see how easily they can be twisted. Read George Orwell’s Why I Write. Sometimes I would speak to friends in the police about a story and they would say, “Yep, but the Press didn’t mention this…” We cull things sometimes to paint a picture we can cope with, one we can deal with, perhaps a novel theory or a madcap idea made true. We abstain from the reality, which A Fine Profession did not.
This is where it gets hard to explain… There is something burning in me, a need or a purpose that I feel determined to build upon constantly. I feel with every book, I learn, I excel beyond what I did before. If you start at Beneath the Veil and continue through the books, you might just see how quickly my style and skills have developed. It’s like when you feel in the mood for a quick, easy read, you go for that. It fulfils everything you want in that moment. Then, when you need something to sink your teeth into, you reach for the tomes that will make you wince but ultimately, reward you exponentially. In a writer’s life, this is similar. Sometimes you need to write something exploratory and uncomfortable, then other books end up being lighter or more what we think of as mainstream. Mainstream to me seems to embody “driven formula, emotive yet not too heavy, nothing too offensive”.
When I was writing A Fine Profession I was in the zone of that book and thought nothing of being offensive with some of the stuff therein. Some of it is meant to be uncomfortable and make you question all we imagine about men and women’s opinions of sex, love and exploitation. I sometimes look back and wonder how the hell I had the balls to do it but I felt so sure of what I was creating in the moment and I wasn’t thinking about me, I was thinking about Lottie and how she saw the world around her.
2013 was the year I realised that this isn’t just a maternity leave project any longer. It is so much more now. Yeah I always knew I could write. But for someone like me, whose brain refuses to slow down, I knew it would become all-consuming and hard to let go of once I got going. Like I said, there are so many things that go on behind the scenes – all those little bits of refinement build a good book. There’s so much you can’t appreciate as the reader because you only see what we want you to see, and that is the bits we feel comfortable showing you. It’s nice when I get to sit down with other people’s books because that is therapy. There are so many things about being a writer that you can only understand if you are one too. It’s such a lonely world otherwise.
My final thought is that this writing year brought me Lottie, brought me Noah, gave me so many awesome compliments from not only fellow writers, but bloggers, non-erotica readers and new fans I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for social media etc. It’s all building towards something solid and robust. My goodness, though, it has been a test. It has been taxing. I am of the school of method writing. I was always taught not to refer to a writer in the context of their biography. However, one character in my books is explicitly me. No, it’s not Lottie. I maintain categorically it isn’t her. Ha-ha! I could not have written that book if she was me. It would have been too difficult. I wrote it for someone not even a little bit like me. Anyway, maybe I am saying read them all and decide for yourself where the real me is hiding! Lottie once said to me, “Most of us dream of finding true love and yet none of us know what it entails. It requires ultimate sacrifice – giving entirely of yourself. I had tried to do that by writing my book and then even still, its relevance had already begun waning.” This world moves at a constant pace. A true love may be something rare and beautiful but nothing ever comes for free, I am a true believer of that.
What might 2014 bring? I think a tome might be next… perhaps a lot of editing jobs too, all of which fortify the strengths I am constantly building on. Life is a journey and this is the one I am currently riding.