Friday, August 9, 2013

Balls of Dung

August 9th 2013

Writing this blog sometimes feels like scratching my marks on the cell wall to mark time. I think it's been 76 posts, which amounts to as many weeks, so getting on for a year and a half since I started keeping public track of my publishing process with Simon & Schuster.  Someone asked me the other day how long it had been from when I conceived the idea of the book to the point of publication. So, I think I wrote a first draft in late summer of 2009. It was after a lengthy summer stay at the hill fort of Dunadd in the holiday cottage where I set the book. I had for a while wanted to write a story about Dunadd, so pregnant anyway with history, but I hadn't been able to find a way of approaching it until Audrey Niffenegger came out with "The Time Traveller's Wife," and it seemed as though time travel could be taken seriously by mainstream fiction readers. I came home from Scotland and wrote the first draft and then hid it from my agent, because he was supposed to be selling another of my novels, and I didn't want him to get distracted. When I eventually did show it to him, he of course lost interest in the first novel, which was more interior and didn't have any car chases (neither does "Veil of Time," but it has a woman walking into a different dimension!) Speaking of car chases, I had a lot of resepect for Jeffrey Eugenides' novel "Middlesex," until the end and the car chase. It's like some blockhead of an editor said, "Great book, Jeffrey, if you could just insert a car chase..." It is so out of tenor with the rest of the book, that you wonder what lapse in taste could have produced it.  I suppose I am just lucky that they had no cars at eighth century Dunadd, or I, too, might have succumbed. I suppose I could put in a gratuitous horse and cart chase.
Anyway, I digress. I signed a contract with Simon and Schuster in March of 2012, and the book is coming out in March of 2014. So, that's the time frame. The time frame is ages and ages and eons. Five years. If that first novel ever sees print, it will be more on the order of twenty years. What other profession has such a slow turn around? I suppose the answer to that is, any of the arts. But we're on the last stretch now. I am told galleys will be sent out to me on 4th September and then I will hold in my hands the fruits of my labour. I am expecting that to feel very very good.
So why do we keep on at this madcap business?
Steinbeck says, "There is one purpose in writing that I can see, beyond simply doing it interestingly. It is the duty of the writer to lift up, to extend, to encourage." He directs this comment to the "neurosis belt of the south..the hard boiled writers," who take themselves too seriously. We write to save ourselves, I suppose, and in doing so, help others. "It is too bad," he goes on, "we have not more humor about this. After all, it is only a book and no worlds are made or destroyed by it. But it becomes important out of all proportion to its importance. And I suppose that is essential. The dunghill beetle must be convinced of the essential quality in rolling his ball of dung."
So the dung ball takes five or twenty years to come of age. The people hold it in their hands and declare it a truly worthy ball of dung.  And if they don't, they will cast it aside, and who cares? It is is only dung, after all.

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