Sometimes my writing journey feels like this. No honestly. It does.
For a while, due to a series of health and family misfortunes, my writing felt like it was forever chugging up-hill.
This is a serious problem for a writer.
What does one do in such a time?
You don’t stop writing – that is the number one rule. You somehow keep putting words on the page. If you can’t write fiction you blog – about anything. Even in Welsh, if that helps. You write copy. You dabble in short stories.
You journal. Hoping, life will one day return to an even keel. You also read. Copiously.
Non-fiction, recipes, your Welsh dictionary. Literary fiction. Historical. Light contemporary works. On holidays, you indulge in a great big romping holiday read. The kind that cuts you off from your family for hours at a time. A book in which you get lost – or maybe found.
My last summer holiday read was Kate Morton’s, The Distant Hours.
Having read Kate Morton’s earlier novels, I knew roughly what to expect. A tale of crumbling castles, ancient families and compelling inter-generational secrets.
Aside from their clear gothic influence, her books also have another element in common. Whether a screenwriter trying to understand the death of a war affected poet, a cameo appearance by Frances Hodgson Burnett, or a young writer finding the courage to write on the crisp new pages of a notebook, her books all provide insights into the writing life.
The Distant Hours didn’t depart from this pattern. It was a tale of readers, writers, editors and war-affected families, who were influenced, by the work of one a dead man and his signature tale: The True History of the Mud Man
I gobbled the story down, revelling in its lessons and insights, and came up wanting to know more. How much did Morton’s character’s writing habits mirror her own? Did she use notebooks? Had she walked the fine line between sanity and insanity? Had she ever felt like giving up? Would she be willing to tell me?
If she did … wouldn’t it make great article. I pitched the idea to the Historical Novels Review. Yes, they said, go for it. We will put it in our November edition.
Kate Morton was a delight to interview. So enthusiastic. Her replies so comprehensive. I wanted to publish every word. But due to a tight word limit, I had to edit her response. The result an engaging, tightly honed article (my exaggerated description), that is only the beginning of my big boast. In addition to the article, Kate asked whether she could use some the questions on her blog. The Review said yes, of course, providing the article came out after the November publication date.
Today, I had an email telling me one of the questions has made it on to the blog (yes, follow the link)
My writing life has taken a turn these past months. I no longer feel like the little red engine – I think I can, I think I can. Some days it even feels quite easy.
So what does a writer do then?
You don’t take it for granted. That’s the first rule. You know life is a series of ups and downs. The mountains will rise up again. Some days, you will wonder whether you can keep going.
But in the meantime, you say a little prayer of thanks when words flow onto the page, or when an article is published, and, when you find your name on the web page of an international, best-selling author, you whoop and throw your hands in the air – and enjoy the ride.