The Seven Trials of Cameron-Strange comes out on November 1st. Impress kindly sent me some advance copies which I’ve distributed among friends. It is very rewarding, and slightly surreal, to see one’s stuff out there and between covers (incidentally, I love the cover). Let me divulge a confidence. I wanted to call it The Seven Trials of Alastair Cameron-Strange but I was persuaded to drop the “Alastair” – too many words on the cover! That reminded me of Amadeus, Peter Shaffer’s play (and subsequently film) about Mozart in which an aristocratic patron tells Mozart that his music contains too many notes. (You can see I have delusions of grandeur.) I canvassed the opinion of a group of friends (largely the ones who got advanced copies of the book) and they thought Impress were right, so I relented. I wonder what Alastair would have done? He’s a younger man, and on a bit of a short fuse. I think he might have thrown a Beethovenian tantrum and said, “Don’t change a ******* word!” But I’m practising the art of serenity.
A further confidence: I didn’t find it particularly easy to write. Frankly I wasn’t in the mood. I was preoccupied with other things, but I had a time schedule, largely of my own devising. I just had to get up every morning and write another thousand, day upon day. Given all that, I’m happy with the result. I’ve just read a favourable review from the website neverimitate, for which much thanks. What sort of a review would I have given it? Let’s see… 21 chapters. 3 good, 16 OK, 2 bordering on the shonky, as they say Down Under. And the overall effect? Ah – that is where I’m least qualified, like the pilot in the eye of the hurricane, impervious to what’s going on around him. I know I’m not supposed to say stuff like this. I should be like a top level sportsman… “I was really awesome today.”
So, on to part 3, in “the life of the troubled doc”. And, for whatever reason, this has been, thus far, an easier remit. “You ask me why? I cannot tell you. I only know that it is so.” I’ve become very fascinated by the creative process. Do you just sit down and blurt, and see where it takes you? Or do you pre-plan everything down to the finest detail? Well, no doubt every writer has a different modus operandi, but I’ve certainly come to discover that, for me, I’m more of a blurter than a planner. That’s not to say I don’t plan. I come up with an idea (where it comes from I’ve no idea – subject for another blog). And yes I sit in coffee shops with a note book and I try to expand it and structure it and see where it will go and what conclusion it might reach. But I pretty soon learned that that approach, initially fruitful, brought me up against a brick wall. For a time I thought this was a lacking on my part. But I’ve changed my mind about that. When you hit the wall like this, the Muse is merely telling you to stop faffing around and get on with it. Just start writing and the solutions to all these unanswerable questions will sooner or later come along.
So Speedbird (working title) is a great mystery, even with 20,000 words on the slate. And I love that. I’m not even sure the title will remain. A friend of mine asked me yesterday which character was critically injured at the end of Seven Trials, and I replied, how should I know? All I know is that the putative Speedbird has about 24 chapters, of which 5 are written. I know that every chapter has to “work” on its own, as an autonomous entity, and then – more difficult – that every chapter has to elide seamlessly into the next chapter, and that – most difficult of all – the entire construct must, as an entity in itself, “work”.
Will it work? No idea. But I can tell you I’m getting great satisfaction in the process of finding out. I love it when I go for a run and swim and a sauna and then some utterly crazy idea comes to me out of left field and I think, “I can write about that…” Suddenly Speedbird has gone off in a direction I’d never anticipated. You say to yourself, where is this going to end up? You don’t know. All you can do is write your way to the conclusion, and only then will you find out.