To “Her” Out There

Hello Audrey:

Thanks for your email. Good to hear from you. And it’s great you are still pandemic-okay.

What am I up to? Top of the list, my mother-in-law is with us as she recovers from an early May fall in which she broke a wrist and hit her head on the pavement; and she also had a “non-aggressive” cancer diagnosed 18 months ago. We don’t know now how much of her troubles are the fall v. how much is the cancer may be worsening. She was supposed to go home and did for a few days, but she has a difficult time by herself and a certain son and other nearby other family in her immediate vicinity in London have not been entirely helpful.

It is made worse, and exhausting, to be honest, and massively aggravating especially when the M-i-L tells us the sun shines out of the a-s of that same useless and obnoxious younger brother my wife (rightfully) can’t stand. Such is life though, right? You will probably go through something like this yourself someday too. It happens to us all but there is never really a way to prepare yourself mentally for it. So we have her with us here indefinitely it seems – at least until we get back to America for a bit, which we HOPE will be in September.

[From my Instagram Stories. Photo by me, July 28, 2021.]

The upside to our looking after the M-i-L is I have gotten lots of writing done on the manuscript in recent weeks. Writing I have learned never really gets any easier; all of the earlier books are about as useful now as a CV career experience listing of previous jobs. All that matters right now is that page I am writing right now; for example, this time I managed to get John Quincy Adams into a romantic novel. Ha! (His wife was an England-born American he married against the wishes of his parents President Adams and Abigail. A man taking on his parents for the woman he loves: now, that is romance! LOL!) I am trying to lose myself in 200 and more years ago so I don’t find myself reflecting too much on the difficult present day, but then again haven’t we all in some form or another tried to do that in various ways since early 2020.

This is always a frightening time as I re-read and re-read and alter and delete and add and recraft a draft. However, I will say that some of it I think is actually even pretty good. It has now got lots of chapters that I would say are even “complete.”

You know I like to use “letters” in these books as a means of background as well as to move the story on. While I was the other day writing a “farewell letter” near the end from a man to the woman he had long loved, I found I was writing it as seriously as I could and trying to get myself “in character” to do it as I usually do. This time, though, something led me to bear down as if I were myself writing it to the woman I loved, which took the effort I think to a whole other new level…

[Anna Karenina, by Tolstoy, Photo by me, July 30, 2021.]

I have also been reading Anna Karenina, which is probably influencing me a bit with this particular book. I had not read it before; it is an amazing novel. Reading more the other night got me thinking again also.

Reading is the most personal of activities and each of us as a reader is different. What I do want to do as a writer regardless is to seize and hold her reading imagination. Oh, and I write “her” there deliberately in particular because I know, based on my known readership, that some 9 out of 10 of my readers is “her,” including even some 20-somethings like you.

I had not planned it that way back in 2013 or 2016. I think my books – especially the most recent two and this one I am writing – work for guys also; but for some reason they have not been drawn to them. So be it. If women are to be the bulk of my readers, I am fine with that.

[From Tomorrow The Grace, Kindle version. Photo by me, 2021.]

That novel above was written between 2017-19, you remember. I think even more than ever with this latest manuscript as if I am writing for “her” (singular; not a crowd, just one “her”) reading it, whomever she is, wherever she is. Perhaps it is because I am writing it mostly during the pandemic, so maybe even more than any previous novel I have written I want her to find escape from a lousy present to the point that if someone interrupts her while she is reading, she will find herself unpleasantly jolted as she is returned to reality: “What? You want pizza? Ugh, I was in 1810 with a lovely man pining for me… [shakes head]… I mean for his wife! His wife!” LOL!

That is a tall order to aim for as a writer I know, but I sure as heck try my best to hit that target.

Anyway that is mostly what I am doing as of today, 1 August 2021: I am helping to look after a sick and injured M-i-L and writing the next novel, which I want out for Christmas – if I can make it. It is always great to hear from you. All my best to your mum and père.

R