This is about all I’ve seen for the past couple of days:
I’m pushing like crazy to get Waiting for My Daughter’s Ghost, my second novel, to my agent by next week and have one last chapter to finish. This last chapter is proving most difficult. Not only do I have to wrap everything up and resolve plot lines but I need to leave readers feeling full and satisfied, as if they’ve just finished a hearty and warm meal.
Yet it’s so very, very hard to let go of this imaginary but still too-real world I’ve created. I’ve been inside my book for almost three years; I know the house where my characters live almost as well as I know my own. I know how their lawn looks in the summer and winter, how the air smells when the snow melts, where they kick off their shoes when they come home from hiking with the dogs. I know each of those dogs, too. I know their quirks and bad behaviors, their favorite treats and toys and where each one likes to sit in the car.
I find myself growing depressed the closer I get to the ending. I don’t want to leave! I want to stay in this safe and fictional world, where I control the plot (well, actually my characters have taken over, but that’s another story, another post). I want to stay in my characters’ world, where I have to take risks and make decisions but not the same types of risks and decisions I face in real life.
Is this why we write?
John Fowles summed it up well in The French Lieutenant’s Woman (and if you’ve never read this, buy or download it immediately; it is a gem), “But novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement …. I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is.”
I suppose I wish to recreate a world different from my own but still similar enough to bring me comfort and, dare I say it, joy. Which causes me to wonder: Do we write because we love ourselves and our terrible and clever minds? Or because we are trying to love ourselves and our terrible and clever minds?
Waiting for My Daughter’s Ghost is about loneliness and the difficulties of letting go, and how we cling to the familiar, and how sometimes our ghosts are nothing more than memories we’ve constructed to stave of grief, or loneliness, or fear. We are all haunted. And our ghosts both define and yet destroy us.
I just completed a scene where my protagonist, Sasha Dewey, travels to upstate New York to visit the grave of her stillborn daughter for the first time in fifteen years. As we’re flying over Canada, I feel her slip in the empty seat beside me, fasten her seatbelt, kick off her shoes and lean her head against my shoulder. ‘Mother,’ she says, her breath against my neck, small whispers, as delicate as insect wings. ‘Mother,’ she murmurs, and inside my veins my blood sings fierce joy.
I hope everyone is haunted this week by characters that bring them fierce joy.