Everyone’s got a book in them. Apparently. Well, I’ve written mine. Nearly. ‘A beginning, a muddle and very definitely The End’ – as quoted by author and poet
Philip Larkin, although he didn’t add ‘very definitely’. That’s mine.
Thirty plus very odd years ago I teetered upon the end of school. 1969. Man had set foot on the moon
and Butch Cassidy and pard the Sundance Kid were packing iron in the cinemas. My fascination for the moon landing was almost on par with that of the film, but that western played havoc with my flourishing imagination and has intruded on my night and daydreams
ever since, revitalising my wild west passion and my previously non-vocalised feminist ravings about the wilder women of the west. Many years later, sporting gun and fringes, I emulated those women much to the embarrassment of my kids when young and embarrassable
(Samantha still is) and the glee of the neighbours, but back in the sixties my hobby had yet to find it’s niche, and the influence of that film burrowed into my vulnerable, creative left pink blob of a brain, and there it remains.
I was a girl on the brink of womanhood with a multitude of wondrous thoughts and dreams, and the germ of a plot emerged. Robert Redford was transformed into a devastating fair-haired woman who accomplished daring and devilish western
actions and adopted masculine positions. A story developed in my head, slowly and surely, during my days and nights . My brand new heroine became entangled in every traditional western action imaginable, revealing her lightning gun and efficient punch.
My excitement at having invented such an intriguing character was overwhelming. A female western protagonist who takes on any traditional hero and flips them over her shoulder with ease and embraces every western
scenario with fire. I love it. The story I wanted to read. But back then I had yet to capture the whole passionate saga on paper. My dreams involved disconnected portions of derring-do and devil-may-care, wherein my heroine thumped and was thumped back. Used
her lightening draw. Was endlessly shot but survived. Rode like a madwoman. Became embroiled in womanly love and passion. I found it extraordinarily exciting. My heart thumped hard and I knew I had to write it.
To my utter discomfiture, however, another embarrassing (to me at any rate) facet emerged. It’s not for the eyes of those of a tender disposition. ‘Don’t worry what your mother thinks,’ they say. Too right. Sensitive raunchy
bits which I wouldn’t read to my granny or yours. Ye Gods! I tried to change it but my creative imagination refused to co-operate. My creativity was producing over-the-topness which I couldn’t prevent and the story was growing more electrifying
by the second.
I thought and dreamt it continuously, drawing hundreds of illustrations of my heroine, by now the charismatic, beautiful, female version of Robert Redford. Self-consciousness ruled
me. Husband knew I was creating all this in my head, was aware of my drawings. I didn’t want him to see them. What if he thought me strange if I went into torrid detail? But I couldn’t keep it from him. He was Husband. He had to know. Finally I
plucked up the courage to reveal The Plot and drawings. He inspected all while I hid beneath a pillow next door. He then pronounced to his cringing, blushing spouse that my heroine looked sexy and the story sounded intriguing. For goodness’ sake, he
said, write the darn thing! I smothered him in relieved, grateful kisses and vowed to get on with The Story. Amazing what a few well chosen words can do.
I penned some paragraphs. I changed some
of it. I went to art college, had children and typed it with one hand on a manual typewriter, the other cradling and feeding a baby. I changed it. (The story -- not the baby.) I retyped it on an electric typewriter. We acquired a word processor (all this happened
in hotches and potches over the years) and I began revising it and realised how frighteningly humungous it was. My younger child began secondary school, at which point a real desire to see my originally day-dreamt story reach its finality in book form really
took hold and I got down to the nitty-gritty business of research -- which happens as I write -- and further revision. All during school hours. I now see the length of it. Monumental. So is the task of plot-gathering, continuity, pace, grammar…
I’m lucky. I don’t have deadlines and a living to make. However, self -discipline rules. Back in those days, kids at school, down to work by nine o’clock. Lunchtime. Finish at three o’clock.
I was good like that. Nowadays we’re retired (yes, alright, I’m still writing the darn thing…but it is an epic) and I continue re-editing and research at
night. On my laptop using memory sticks. How times change.
I couldn’t bring myself to show it to anyone. I knew I wasn’t alone in this, yet it had to be revealed to all and sundry at
some point, otherwise what is the point? I mean, when one sees what has been written before and sells, what has one to worry about? Plus I am no hard-nosed saleswoman. Therefore the tale had barely seen the light with the very odd exception of the occasional
publisher I’d written to – I didn’t know them from Eve and they didn’t know me so it didn’t matter (incidentally, one of them loved the idea, calling it ‘sensational’! Whoopee!) and one or two honoured pals who seemed
to love the small portions I’d deemed to show them. But -- as those in the know say -- pals, parents and partners don’t (sadly) count. Writing groups didn’t cater to my needs back then. After all, could you see it? Surrounded by open- jawed
poetry and romance lovers while I recount a particularly raunchy section concerning hot hanky-panky. Only one thing for it, I muttered at the time -- finish the ruddy thing and send three chapters and brief synopsis to an agent, even if it takes ‘till
I’m fifty. (Only two years to go, back then.)
Ten years later. Progress report: Hey – guess what? I’m sixty this year! Once upon a time I joked that I would finish it before I was
sixty. Hadeha. Never mind. I’m still actually enjoying it. It still excites me, so that must be saying something. With the advent of e-mails I’m sending portions to various folk and getting responses – critiques and great comments. Are they
being polite? Don’t be polite – be honest! Whatever, it’s such a relief to get it out there. And with the advent of e-publishing as well, I have no excuse not to do something with it. I have written The End many times. One day I will write
The End and mean it. Goodness me, what a thought.