Let’s see…I’ve been away on an extended luxury holiday – financed by the massive advance I received from the wise and wonderful publishing house who agreed to publish my book. After a massive bidding war, of course!
Or maybe I’ve been on a very long business trip – Apple commissioned me for a huge copywriting project. No, actually, it was Naked Wines. Their regular copywriter was suddenly incapacitated, and the only person they would contemplate as a replacement was me! (Have you read the Naked Wines copy? It’s achingly fabulous.) And naturally I had to drink copious amounts of their very fine and uber-delicious wines in the process.
Or perhaps I spent a wee spell in prison for – what? Ah, I know – a Justin Bieber-style egging of all of the Blog Award Ireland judges!
I know – after years of biting and picking, I finally grew my fingernails so long it became impossible to type.
Or could it be that I was been stricken down with a severe case of anxiety related procrastination – brought on by, oh, stuff?
Okay – one of the above statements is completely true. Another has an element of truth in it. I have fantasised about three them. And one is an utter pile of cack.
So, now that we’ve got the excuses out of the way – I have some news. Bad news and good news. Might as well get the bad news of out the way first – actually, it’s kind of old news now, but I feel I need to address it. I didn’t win the Blog Awards Ireland Best Blog Post gong. Oh, except I did! Confused? Me too. Well, you see, my post, An Unconventional Death, topped the public vote with 1224 votes – almost 300 votes ahead of the post in second position, and close to 500 votes above the winner (who, by the way, finished sixth in the public poll). Are you still with me? So, basically, despite the fact that I was, as many of my supporters repeatedly emphasised, “The People’s Choice”, the judges decided that The People know nothing – and flicked me off the podium with a “that’ll teach you to be so smug” sneer. Ouch. It definitely hurt – I’m not going to lie. And I was utterly mortified for all the wonderful people who had bothered their asses to vote for me, and those who took it upon themselves to relentlessly, selflessly, drum up support for my post. But, once I’d picked myself up, wiped the mud off my face and plucked the chip out of my shoulder, I realised that, actually, I’d much prefer to be the People’s Choice, thank you very much! It has quite a nice ring to it, don’t you think? So (thumbs in ears, fingers wiggling, tongue stuck out) nah-nah-na-na-nah to the judges, and (fingertips to lips, hand moving backwards and forwards) big kisses to everyone who made me the (real) winner!
Right. Moving onto the better news. The brilliant news. The fantastic news, which is only a little bit less great than the Bloody Fantastic News which I hope to be sharing with you at some point in the future (two words: first word – three syllables – first syllable, somewhere you drink – second syllable, something a dog wears for walkies – third syllable, sing minus the ‘s’; second word – sounds like seal). The wonderfully gorgeous people at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland have awarded me another grant, to complete my manuscript-(not) in-progress, The Possibilities of Elizabeth! (See, Blog Award Ireland judges – nah-nah-na-na-nah!)
It was the Arts Council who got me going on Elizabeth back in (wince) 2010. At the time I was working on another story about a girl called Melanie Monroe, but this Elizabeth character kept butting in. To begin with I thought she wanted to be included in Melanie’s story, but I couldn’t figure out how she slotted into the picture. Bugger off, I told her. Shut up and leave me alone. I’m busy. But she wouldn’t shut up. She kept on goading me – whispering in my ear about some car she’d crashed and that she was in hospital and that something weird was going on. She told me about her brother, Jamie, and how she’d just seen him – even though he was dead. But it was the teenage Jamie she’d seen – and he’d died when he was in his thirties. And then I realised that she was telling me all this mumbo-jumbo from a coma, and that, actually, she was asking for my help. She had nothing to do with Melanie Monroe whatsoever. She wasn’t interested in her story. She wanted to tell me her own.
So poor old Melanie got the heave-ho (though maybe someday I’ll get back to her, if she’ll let me) and I begrudgingly let Elizabeth take her place. I say begrudgingly only because of all those words I had ‘wasted’. Swapping a nicely developing word-count for a big fat 0, in the middle of a funding supported year, was not the plan. But I needn’t have worried, to begin with anyway, as Elizabeth’s story quickly took shape, and the word count was soon zooming back up the ladder. But just when we were getting somewhere, Elizabeth and I, we sort of stopped.
I have to admit, when I finally started book two (after many, many discarded attempts, including Melanie) I smugly thought I would write my second novel in no time. I could do it in a year, I thought. Well, maybe two. But that would be tops – and fully formed at that: trimmed, edited and neatly deposited to my agent. But… it’salmostthreeyearssinceIstartedElizabeth (if I say/write that quickly, in one breath, it doesn’t hurt so much), and we’re not even at completed first draft stage. Nowhere near it, if I’m honest. The ridiculous thing is, I know the story. Elizabeth talks to me all the time, all the bloody time. I know what happened to her – I know what happens to her. And I like it. It’s a good story. I’m sure it is. It’s a story I would like to read. It’s a story I actually, truly, believe might just get read by others. SO WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?
Well, ME, obviously.
I do have sporadic flurries of productivity, when things happen, and the conversations I have with Elizabeth in my head actually make it onto my computer screen. But then I’ll spend days reworking those chunks, deleting, fine-tuning, and over-editing. Then I’ll decide that it’s all a load of crap, and walk away for a while, burying myself in the rest of my life – which, frankly, has been something of a test in resilience this past while. Lately I’ve been contemplating throwing in the towel – not writing per say, but Elizabeth. There are elements of her story (connected to that resilience test) that I just wasn’t sure I could tell. But this morning I sat down and read some of the existing chapters and I realised that of course I couldn’t walk away. I’ve invested too much in this project already. I’m just being a winge. In an Anthony Bourdain-style kick up the ass pep-talk, I need to ‘man the fuck up’! (First episode of The Taste – Nigella hugs a crying contestant, Anthony utters his words of wisdom. The hug would be nice, but it’s the words that will do the trick.)
And, of course, there’s the small (okay, huge) matter of the National Lottery funded Arts Council grant (knew I’d score a lottery win one day) – a significant, confidence-boosting act of recognition from Damian Smyth, the truly wonderful man who is Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. If that isn’t an incentive injection, then what the hell is? I was awarded the grant to complete Elizabeth in 2014 – and if I have any self respect at all then that’s what I damn well have to do. I owe it to Damian, I owe it to myself – and, of course, I owe it to Elizabeth.
So … I’m going to let you read a little bit of Elizabeth’s story. If you want to, that is. I mean, you don’t have to or anything. And I won’t be offended if you don’t. (Just so you know – right now I am completely flipping starkers, and the bus stop is bloody packed!) The extract is from chapter three, and I’ve chosen this particular piece because I’ve already read it in public. Yes – in public. To my surprise, I was invited to participate in the Titancon Literature Night event last September, where I was both honoured and terrified to be sharing the stage with a bunch of talented “proper” writers: i.e. published ones. I felt like such a charlatan, but it seemed to go down well. Mind you, the bar had been open for quite a while before the event got underway!
Anyway, if you’ve nothing better to do for the next ten minutes, you can download it here.
I’m off to hide. But I’ll be back soon, I promise.
Oh, and will you do me a favour? If you like what you read, and you want to read more – will you pester me until I finish it? Please?
And one more thing: if any of you are even remotely considering nominating me in any of the Blog Awards Ireland categories this year, thanks very much, but bugger off!