I haven’t written an update for a while but that’s because of so many things that are like, 80% there, 90 % there, but I can’t share just yet.
I’m aware a variation of that sentence appears on this website a lot, well, there you are, that’s the life of someone who writes for a living; some days I feel like writing a book is only 5% of the process.
Particularly with fiction writing, I find this to be the case. I decided not to write anything new in fiction for a while, to concentrate on Peach, and the stories associated to it. I concentrated for a while on getting beta-readers and advance reviewers for it and recently reached out to a couple of people, one, a blogger who had given a great review for Coal House and the other was my college English tutor, who I reconnected with a couple of years ago after not seeing her since those college days which were around eighteen years ago. I’m coming up to my birthday and that was half my life ago—it’s not an exaggeration to say that academically speaking, she was the one influence who stands out in my life.
I don’t want to go into my life story (coincidentally a bit of a theme here) but my late teens were a difficult time. I was bullied quite badly at secondary school and whilst college ought to have been a liberation I think it served as something of a bottleneck. There was a requirement on me to demonstrate self-discipline and I think due to a number of factors that was one thing I rebelled against. It was a power I had over my own life and I was quite self destructive with it. This was in spite of my tutor, Ruth, and her constant intervention to try and keep me dedicated to my studies. If I had a talent, a creative talent, it was in writing, and she always believed in me as far as that was concerned.
I sent Ruth my novel and when she said she was close to finishing it and would get back to me, I felt a strange sensation; an apprehension I was familiar with and yet simultaneously found unfamiliar. I put that down to the student in me, who had finished their big assignment, and was waiting for their grade.
Thankfully Ruth was very complimentary (I think I got a C minus!) and her comments suggested she thought the story might have been autobiographical. I did get that comment from a literary agent and editor who gave some wonderful extensive feedback (not named here as to not inundate her with beta requests, that girl is so busy!). It made me think, because Peach is certainly not autobiographical. However I have been in situations like the protagonist of my story. I think most of us have. They are every day situations.
I have enjoyed two or three incredible experiences as a ghost writer in the last couple of years, one I am not really ready to talk about and another one I really am, working with the actor Charles Baker. These experiences have given me an incredible balance I never had before and a perspective I didn’t have. It was these experiences that made me want to write Peach, which as an idea for a story had always been ‘the book that I would write’; I found myself flush with ideas for conversations, character arcs, development, progression, to flesh out a storyline that had existed for years. Yes, I’ve been in some of those situations, though rarely have I thought about what I could have done differently.
For Peach I asked a bunch of ‘what if’s, I then tried to put these events into an order which may seem infuriating but would also feel very natural. Wrong choices any of us could make, the excuses we use to tell ourselves they weren’t the wrong choices, the consequences we face because of the hurt we cause and the way we have to accept that our happiness is fundamentally dependent on the happiness of others, and so, there is a basic responsibility to ourselves to be good and to be kind.
I was completely floored and overwhelmed by Ruth’s positive comments; she said she was proud of me which really did evoke an unfamiliar feeling in me. I went through a long time in my life where I often felt like was I was an observer, I didn’t feel things as keenly, emotionally, as I thought I might. But having a nephew and losing my father-in-law has really pushed me into a position where I do tend to feel everything a lot more sensitively these days. Ruth’s comments had me quite emotional and I must admit it took me a week to even think about writing something down about it (and here, all I can say is really how much I appreciated it, not great articulation, that, is it?!).
So to Sue, the blogger/reviewer at Eyes & Ears, who I sent an advance review copy of Peach to because she enjoyed Coal House and said wonderful things about it. You can see on my ‘Peach’ page (linked here) what she said about it, and that’s just a selection I’ve taken from her review… to receive an advance review which a) says nice things but b) completely gets the message of the story you were trying to write is a vindication that really is only known to people who have taken the time to put that kind of thing together. That’s not any back slapping to myself, it’s more a prompt to anyone who’s reading this who may be procrastinating over any form of creation. It is a risk, you do put yourself out there, but there are people who will connect and when they do it is the most remarkable fulfilment you can imagine. Maybe that’s a better way of articulating the point I was trying to make above. I was taking a risk because Sue liked Coal House and speaking in genres, it is a significant departure from Peach—it is also a long read, and I think requires an investment of time and probably some emotion and effort from the reader. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing to say as the author and I can only say that as with everything creative, the response is subjective, so I am so appreciative of the time Sue and Ruth both took and the time they took to give feedback.
Writing can be tough but it can be rewarding and in those moments where it seems like nothing is happening you sometimes need the boost that I received from Ruth and Sue.
I hope the next post will be an update about a release, but I just wanted to share this with you!