I finished a novel some time last year. Anything like detail or dates is lost in the fug of an El Niño summer kept at bay with lemonade Icy Poles in the absence of recognisable air-conditioning. And my first son came along in the middle of that, unimpressed by my confectionery-centred cooling strategy.
So a season of screaming, pacing, and seven series of minimum-volume West Wing consumed by nightlight.
And during this the novel was making its characteristic, circumlocutory way between a succession of literary in- and out-trays:
· Agent A was, as always, unreasonably generous and encouraging but unable to take on new business; kindly forwarded to
· Agent B, who was likewise unnecessarily helpful and charitable with her time but transitioning into an offline-due-to-imminent-baby-arrival mode; thoughtfully recommended to
· Agent C, who warned of having their dance card already well and truly full, and thus leading to
· Agent D, who similarly was packed to the gills and so, again, with a streak of generosity that I’m beginning to suspect is rampant within the profession, recommended to
· Agent E, who is – remarkably, almost unbelievably – right this moment reading the thing.
During the time of this genuinely charmed tête-à-tête, the novel saw fit to send itself to one other: Editor A. Editor A works for Dream Publisher A, and had been supportive and merciful with a previous novel of mine. Keep The Lion Hungry elbowed into his reading pile and, miraculously, surreally, Editor A dug it.
Editor A recommended it to Publisher A (boss banana of Dream Publisher A), with whom the novel currently sits for the bestowing of the green/red light.
In the midst of this my house became home to a family of adorable but ultimately incompatible mice. I built a humane (mousane?) mousetrap out of sticky tape and broken pencils which has yet to yield results.
I really can’t tell what will happen from here (with the novel or the mice). For quite a time after finishing the book I was convinced that I should put it in the drawer with the others and leave it be, for good. I love this novel, I’m proud of it, but it is also a peculiar thing. It was almost an exercise. I wrote on instinct; whenever I felt the pull towards writing with my head (plot, structure, intellect, audience – all that important jazz), I shook it off. I wanted to see what would happen if I just let it all unroll. The characters and the place and the mood dictated everything. This was all dumb heart.
If characters were stiff, or inexplicable, so be it.
If they were dull, they stayed dull, staring into walls.
If they broke away crazily, they broke.
If the winter of the story had something to say, I gave it a voice.
I didn’t know if the novel, as it was, was anything another human could value. But just as in the spirit it was written, it seemed to find its own life and off it went. It went blundering off in search of a home.
I can’t tell what will happen from here, but I’m excited about something and I’m happy to follow my dumb, dumb heart.