I wrote a novel!
It’s surprising how hard it is to write that, especially with an exclamation mark. I mean, I’ve been pouring hours into the thing for months, eagerly anticipating the day when I could triumphantly declare it finished. And then, on Friday, I did it. 23 chapters. 85000 words. But when I reached the end. I stopped, puzzled, and frowned at the screen. I rewrote the last sentence about four times. And then, very carefully, I wrote in “Aran Ward Sell. July-November 2010, Brisbane”. I frowned again, it didn’t feel right. I backed up the file in three different places, emailed it to myself twice, and stored a copy online. I added page numbers.
Then, belatedly, as though it had been having trouble finding a place to park, the excitement came rushing in. I stood out of my chair, and bounced around the room a bit. I put on “Wherever I May Roam”, because obviously finishing a novel doesn’t count unless I listen to “Wherever I May Roam”. I emailed my dad, then Dean and Ana with whom I have vaguely writing-oriented conversations going, and inevitably, I updated my Facebook status. I got some coffee, and bounced a bit more.
Then the parking ticket must have ran out, because being excited sort of slinked away again. I finished my coffee, tidied my room, and sat down again to revise.
Now though, a couple of days after, I’m not getting so much excitement as …a swell of pride. My novel may well be absolutely terrible. It certainly needs major, major redrafting before I so much as show it to anyone, let alone anything more ambitious. But …Douglas Adams wrote something like the best time to start a novel was in the warm glow after finishing the last one. I have that now, mixed in with a sort of ruddyhellIwroteabook! I’ve wanted to write a book for ages! At the very least, the very, very least, as of Friday 12th November I can say I have.
And now, I’m going to indulge my ego a little (yeah, like that’s a rare thing, right?) , and talk about my book. I’m going to do this in a sort of FAQ style …except that as I’ve hardly been asked any questions about it, let alone frequent ones, it’s more of a “Q”, really. The Aran Ward Sell Debut Novel Q. Commence.
So, you’ve, um, written a book and stuff, yeah? That was a terrible first question, me. Try harder.
DUDE! YOU WROTE A BOOK! Damn straight I did.
What’s it about? Like anything, I guess it’s about lots of things. Tyrrany. Charity. The conflict between independence and security. The necessity or otherwise of society to the individual, and the individual to society. And it has satire, I think, and some little parodies and allegories woven in. But mostly it’s a post-apocalyptic adventure story about a good man trying to save a child from a bad man.
A bit like Ash rescuing Pikachu from Team Rocket? Exactly.
So not something hyper-literary, then? Nah. I mean, I haven’t really read it yet, but I think it stands more as a piece of reasonably intelligent popular fiction.
And not exactly autobiographical? Once I’ve done enough interesting things to write a novel about, I’ll write a novel about them. But I’m not sure if the literary oeuvre has space for a story about a 20 year old man who eats a lot of carrots and neglects to shave. And if it does, I don’t think I’m the one to write it.
You said you haven’t …read it? How does that work? Not in full. I finished the first draft on Friday, yeah, but I don’t know what it’s like to read that draft straight through beginning to end. I’m going to forget it while I organise and enact all my summer adventures, then read it again after I come back. That’s when I’ll be able to assess just what kind of beast it is.
Fair enough. Now, generic interview questions! What inspired this novel? Who influenced it? Inspiration …well, I wrote the very first page last winter, and then sort of forgot about it for ages, so I can’t remember where that came from. But when I sat down in July and began expanding that, inspiration included …ooh. Lots. I stole a lot of ideas from a different story concept of mine, a piece called Corporal Smitten that I hope to return to someday, which I think in itself was influenced by 28 Days Later, along with a lot of other pop culture stuff. And one of the main ideas came in a really roundabout way from the Within Temptation song “Hand of Sorrow”. And the bit about the owl came from this owl I saw.
As far as writing influence, the only major conscious influence was KJ Parker, who I really admire for using bitter humour in a way that enhances, rather than trivialises the protagonist’s plight. But there’s probably bits of Mervyn Peake, Frank Herbert, Samuel Beckett, Joseph Heller, and ten thousand others mixed in there. Maybe even some Virginia Woolf and Jon McGregor. A smidgen of Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky, at a push. And of course, Terry Pratchett and James Joyce, who influence everything I write by default, just because reading them has influenced the way I think.
There’s a bit with an owl? Yup. There’re also several bits with a yellow plastic dinosaur.
So where now, Shakespeare? Like I said, lock it in a drawer and forget about it. But I’m already buzzing with revisions I want to make — which I should really write down before I forget them — and, yes, I already have quite a few ideas for the sequel…
Right, well. Well done and stuff. I’ll leave you to it now, I’m sure you have lots of important literary conventions to get to, meeting with publishers, coffee and cake with Salman Rushdie, and so on… don’t be a dick, me.
Oh come on, you’re writing an interview with yourself about your own unpublished novel. You’re a dick by definition. You have a point.
Oh, one last thing: what’s it called? Not sure if this will stay, but the working title which I’ve been using is By His Own Hands.