I’ve been working on a big, haunted, historical Southern novel and consequently, I’ve been learning quite a bit about writing historical fiction – it’s much less forgiving than secondary world fantasy simply because anyone can call you on errors, anachronisms. The possibility of real verifiable mistakes are endless whereas in fantasy, there’s a nice glaze of Vaseline over the lens. And with near present history – the last hundred years or so – everything has to be researched. Not a paragraph goes by without having to check something. And that can slow down the process. This big, haunted, historical Southern novel (which I will henceforth call BHHSN for expediency) spans from the early 30s to the mid-50s and one of the main protagonists fights in World War II. You can imagine the amount of historical reference books I have to wade through simply for verisimilitude’s sake.
It became obvious I wasn’t going to finish BHHSN in 2017 and possibly not even in 2018. Around Christmas, I started becoming nervous that I’d not have any book come out this year. And (let’s be honest here, folks) I’m not a novelist that’s at the top of anyone’s list or cropping up in many conversations, either online or off. This isn’t false modesty, it’s just a hard truth that most novelists have to grapple with. For me, it’s exacerbated by my state of residence – there are very few literary events in Arkansas and those that do happen tend to look down their noses at genre. I don’t have many opportunities for the society of other authors or audience. Anyway, I felt that I needed to have something come out in 2018 just so I don’t fall off the edge of the world.
I had recently read Stephen Graham Jones’s Mapping the Interior – it’s amazing, by the way, no one writes with such intimacy and immediacy about the adolescent experience. Or the adult experience, come to think of it. Really, just pick up anything by Stephen Graham Jones. The guy is a genius. <end digression> After reading Mapping the Interior, I came to realize how wonderful a format novellas truly are. They have the pacing of a film, but with space to really develop characters like a novel. I decided I’d try my hand at one, just to complete something this year. I put aside the BHHSN.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about Writers as Protagonist. On the whole, I’m not a big fan of that. I was re-reading Bolaño’s 2666, and thinking, “Jesus, this just feels like the set-up for a horror novel. A Lovecraftian horror novel.” Archemboldi, the murdered Mexican women, the hyper-literate, over-sexed scholars. And I had an idea for novella about Chilean exiles having to return to Chile at the height of Pinochet’s power. But I knew it would have to be about writers, and scholars, which is pretty much the same thing, in the end. This was a first for me. I broke the seal, committing my own pet peeve – I created a writer as protagonist.
Between the beginning of the Christmas season and January 22, I wrote it. It was probably the fastest I’ve ever written anything, except maybe the first 50,000 words of Southern Gods during NaNoWriMo. I sent it to my agent, Stacia Decker, who is notoriously miserly with words (or praise) and she said it was mesmerizing which made me giddy. She agreed to represent it. By February 22, we had a few offers (one from my dream publisher, though in the end, we did not go with them).
Today the deal was announced on Publisher’s Marketplace. Pretty cool, huh?
Here’s my agents pitch for the book: “Isabel, a young professor, forms a tentative friendship with an older poet—both of them Chilean exiles now living in Spain. But when the poet decides to make a dangerous journey home and leaves Isabel the keys to his apartment, she discovers a mysterious Latin text the poet was translating and, with it, another dimension to the horrors they experienced under Pinochet.”
The details of the deal: The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky will be released this year as an ebook. Once I deliver the second novella (I’m writing it now and super excited about it, too) the ebook of TSDIITS will come down and the two novellas will be released in one hardback.
Since finishing The Sea Dreams It Is The Sky, I’ve been working with the estate of Chilean poet Carlos de Rokha to secure rights to some of his poetry (that was easier than I thought) and finding Chilean sensitivity readers (harder than I thought).
YE OLDE MORAL TO THE STORYE: I told you all that to tell you this – when you feel bogged down in your writing, and it’s not coming easily, switch to something else. Break your own rules. Try something different. It’ll re-invigorate you, and spark enthusiasm for your project, both the new one, and quite possibly the old.
Now, I’m rarin’ to get back to the BHHSN.
But I’ve got to write another novella first.
That is all. Thank you for reading.