There comes a time when the floors are spotless, the shelves dusted, the firewood and kindling suitably piled. When I cannot open another tome, read another period play, glean one more fact about, oh, pattens (Overshoes worn so that London’s filthy streets didn’t destroy expensive footwear). When procrastination must end. When I just have to sit at my desk, take a deep breath… and start making things up!
It is that time. This week I began work on my 13th novel. Working title: ‘PLAGUE’, which may be the eventual title too. In a way I also began my 14th, because this one is the first of a pair. The second will probably be called ‘FIRE’. And yes, you’ve guessed it: I am delving into new territory once again and writing about those two great cataclysms of English history: the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. 1665 and 1666.
A while ago I believe I posted about finally deciding what it is I do: writing the Intimate Epic. My last few books settled this for me – Vlad, Armageddon and Shakespeare’s Rebel (coming soon). This new pair will be no different – individual’s stories taking place against the backdrop of huge events. Shaped and affected by them. Shaping and affecting them.
It’s fun to get going again. Hesitation, as Goethe said, always leaves room for doubts. Each time I start I remember the truth: writing is writing. It’s not thinking about writing. All sorts of stuff arises when you are actually doing it. When the imagination gets churning. When these half formed characters are taken into danger, exposed to others, asked questions, commanded to… act.
I know some but not too much yet. Every day brings a new burst of possibilities, new links hitherto unforseen. Arising in the moment. I figure if I write it like that, my readers will experience it like that as well. Discovery in the moment.
And of course now I’ve begun, there’s a part of me ever writing – when I am travelling, cooking, drinking, sleeping – perhaps especially then – I must always have paper and pen nearby. Lines are spoken. A new character introduces him-or-herself.
I am in a Seattle hotel room writing this. Off to attend the American Librarian’s Association’s Midwinter conference. I will be talking about an earlier novel, JACK ABSOLUTE, out in June in the US. Never hard, I love my boy Jack. But I hope all librarians will forgive me if, as I chat to them, my eyes go a little distant and I see the fire consuming St Paul’s Cathedral. And reach for my pen.