JOURNAL, Hertfordshire, 26 August 2016, Early morning.
Weather fine. Another warm day to come it appears. We depart tomorrow for France. Little is packed as of yet, but I’ll do that later today. Much to do before….
In Conventions, a variety of historical figures appear in places, times and contexts that conform to their actual lives (insofar as I can reasonably manage – this is fiction, after all). I strive to make the fictionals similarly “real” and even have “years of birth” in mind: “Robert,” 1765; “Henry,” 1765; “Marie-Thérèse,” 1768; “Carolina,” 1770; “Charles,” 1755; “Jacques,” 1755; “Amandine,” 1774, etc.
I’ve decided also to include what was common in the later 18th century: travel journals. In this case, it will be one kept by “Robert.”
Working away yesterday on Conventions, at one point it struck me again how you may outline and pre-plan a novel to the smallest degree, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as actually writing it. I find some of my (in my opinion) “best” stuff comes via improvisation and even accidentally…. while I’m actually writing. Such is how real life itself, too, often unfolds for us, of course.
I thought it might be fun relatedly this morning to share some “quick hit” samples that may give a “feel” of fictional characters within the tale and their time. They “co-exist” amongst what were real historical people. Among the fictional, first and foremost, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the New York-born twenty-something around whom the tale unfolds:
And he’s just the start.
There’s the (initially 17 year old) daughter of an English baronet:
For starters, I would like to point out that what follows is all Kate Colby’s (The Cogsmith’s Daughter and The Courtesan’s Avenger) fault.😉 Yesterday, I found on Instagram that she had included me (along with six other authors) in a “challenge” to share 7 sentences from page 7 in my latest work in progress. Next I needed to challenge 7 additional authors to do the same.
Since “Day 1” I have known broadly how Conventions would end. Back on Friday, I summoned up the courage and wrote it in detail – the final chapter. While writing one always also surprises oneself, too: as I worked on it I realized I could toss in an unexpected (and in my humble opinion, great) last twist.
After the dust had settled, re-reading it in its entirety, I found the chapter to be – accidentally – a combination of happy and sad (and poignant). That’s striking a bit of “lucky” balance. I’d “signed off” for the weekend well-pleased with what I’d managed.
I don’t want Conventions to be too similar to the Atlantic Lives novels (which I plan currently to return to after Conventions). It’s a huge challenge as a writer to try to head down a different path. But tackling new challenges is what authoring is all about: if you stay in your “comfort zone,” you’ll get stale.
For the first time I’m discovering the real challenge in being original is to be original again and again. We all have distinctive styles and I’m increasingly seeing what constitutes mine. We are inherently ourselves as writers, so it’s exceedingly difficult to avoid writing your previous books… over and over.
But this latest one has to be different in a variety of senses. First off, it will take place mostly between 1787-1795. That alone makes it a true “historical” effort – none of us living remember that time.
A couple of months ago a mutual friend put me in touch with a poet in Cambridge. Tracey, the poet, is also a self-confessed “techno-phobe.” Nonetheless, she is hoping to see her work in e-book form (it’s already in print) and our shared friend had thought of me, and I offered to help.
In the interim, however, we have had our house move here to Hertfordshire, so I haven’t been able to be much help yet. But recently she wrote me that she wanted to read some of what I’d written. Well, I found out yesterday: she texted me that she now has Passports:
I’d posted a few weeks ago that we’d found George Bernard Shaw’s house, known as “Shaw’s Corner,” in neighboring Ayot St Lawrence. The other day – Sunday – with my nephew, who was visiting us for the weekend, we walked back there again and actually went in to see it. Admission is £7.50 per adult, and worth it.