First, thank you very much to those who shared my work-related announcement from earlier this week. Nothing definitive has come of it as yet (I didn’t except it to after three days) but there are two or three possible “leads”. I’m very grateful.
Since I seem to be asking people for their support in various ways a lot lately (e.g, the above, plus Marathon sponsorship) and I’m still being asked about the novel I was working on during 2013-14, I thought I’d better just briefly explain what happened to it and why I stopped working on it to anyone who doesn’t know. Quite a few people very kindly took the time to help me with my background research: lending books on relevant themes, or answering questions about their experiences/expertise to help with story and character building. And I know it can be a bit jarring when you go out of your way to help someone out with something and then all seems to go quiet – even more so when they keep popping up on social media asking for other things…
If you were wondering why I stopped writing the book, or worse, whether there was even a book at all or it was just a front for something else (I do hope no-one seriously thinks that – I’m far too neurotic to be that scheming….) here’s the lowdown: I stopped writing it for two sets of reasons, some wide and some personal. The wider reasons are about timing and marketing. The book was set in the early years of the Coalition government, between London and a fictional North East constituency. Its main character was a Lib Dem MP with a background in PR struggling to manage her professional reputation and her marriage. I started it in 2010-11. It’s 2016 now, you’ll have noticed, and no-one wants books about Lib Dems anymore. Not even Lib Dems want to read about Lib Dems. The clincher was when I applied for a Creative Writing MA last year and was turned down, with feedback which amounted to: “Kiddo, you’re good but you’ve written the wrong book here. Send us something different next year.” (I’m not going to, it’s fine).
The personal reasons I stopped are, well, that. But, similarly to the journalistic adage: “Never become the story”, it’s probably a good idea to rethink writing a novel when things that have happened around you are weirder – and more painful – than anything you could ever make up. It just wasn’t good for my health (nor, possibly, for a few other people’s…) to carry on. In short, Stuff Happened and I couldn’t carry on with the writing as though it hadn’t. I’ve recently started working on something else, a collection of memoir-based essays. The bulk of it has been shelved until after the Marathon, but I look forward to cracking on with it afterwards. The feedback from an Arts Council read of it earlier this year was very encouraging, so I hope it will fare much better than the novel has. I’ve also received some financial support from elsewhere which was originally intended to be for the novel and then went towards other things – with the supporter’s full knowledge and backing.
The novel still exists – I haven’t deleted it, and I won’t. I’ve used elements of it in other work, such as my short play last summer. It may yet Rise Again someday. But now is not the time. Thank you again for all those who helped with the research, and supported me through the writing. I think ambiguity over this may be partly the reason there has been some distance between myself and some people, and if it is, that’s understandable, but I hope I’ve cleared things up here.