Wednesday, April 28, 2010

the lady and the writer

With the publication of my novel ZO in December of 2008 and its inclusion as a finalist for the Kobzar Literary Award in Toronto last March, many people became interested in what this work of fiction was about. To many readers' surprise, it was the first in a trilogy, and they found this out when they were left hanging - somewhat - at the conclusion of ZO.

Since I currently live in a small town it was easy enough for a number of readers to track me down and ask questions about the story and, most importantly for many of them, ask when the second novel in the trilogy was coming out. When I told them, casually, "Oh, about two years," some of them flew into a passion: "Two years! How can you expect people to wait two years after an ending like that?"

Well, it takes time to write and then revise and then edit. Then it takes time to choose a cover and a blurb for the back cover, to get it printed and bound, get the ISBN stuff squared away, etc., etc. But even at that, with a number of other writing opportunities suddenly falling into my lap, I had to wonder when I would get around to writing the sequel to ZO. Would it actually be two years - would it be that fast? Or might it be three or four? At the back of my mind, I sometimes thought: So much is going on. Maybe it won't happen.

Then one day my wife, who is an RN, came home with her own tale to tell. One of her patients, an elderly lady, after making make sure that her nurse was also my wife, said to her: "Well, I want to read the next book. You tell that man of yours that I'm in my 90s and I don't have as long as he has to get around to it. He needs to get it done and get it published."

Humorous as the story is I can't imagine any writer not being affected by her roundabout plea that the story continue and, eventually, be properly completed. So now the sequel to ZO is well underway. At certain stages I have been at it 8-12 hours a day or more. At first I scarcely knew how to start the sequel. Now I can't get all the characters to stop talking at the kitchen table in my head. Idea after idea is gushing forth. It's what Frederick Buechner called an artesian well effect. At one point two weeks ago I was so tired from unending days of writing and word processing I thought I couldn't go any further - I was only human, not a machine. But a few days writing more slowly out of doors rejuvenated me. Now I'm back to running to keep up with my characters and their story. I even tried to stop at the beginning of April, right after Easter, with an "All right, that's enough for a bit, I need to look into some other writing projects." Immediately a new character was in my head, talking, right at me, and I agreed to put his words down for the beginning of the second part of the book, but no more than that.

Fat chance. That was 35,000 words ago.

He's not the only odd incident. I brought a woman military driver into the story just to have a woman military driver. Talk about trying to leash a panther. She's such an important part of the novel now I don't think I'll ever be able to let her go. This happened with another person I brought in with the idea they would need to be "killed off" a few thousand words later. Yeah, right. There is too much to them. They are obviously not going to be killed off a few thousand words down the line. Who knows if they will ever be?

This story has too much energy for me - almost. I've never quite run into this sort of extended depth and complexity and intensity with my fiction writing before. Oh, sure, there's been moments and seasons, but this has no let up. If I could go at it 24/7 without ever eating or sleeping and never losing my edge I might just be able to hold my own with this crew. As it is, I'm hanging on for the ride and my hair is streaming out behind me.

I'll get there. And every indication of re-reading is that it appears to be worth the trip.

I hope the lady thinks so too.

I'm shooting for a late fall or early 2011 publication date.



Paul Laverdure said...

Dear Murray,
I just read Zo, finally, and have one correction: the (Catholic) people would not be chanting liturgy in Ukrainian as you had them do in the novel. It would be in Old Church Slavonic. So, in case you write the sequel, as this post promises, remember that Ukrainian - like other vernacular languages - did not make it as a liturgical language until after the Second Vatican Council, and only in some of the Ukrainian Catholic parishes in North America. It took longer, into the 1970s and 1980s, for it to become widespread in North America. The Ukrainian autocephalous church in Canada (recently in communion with the other Orthodox) accepted Ukrainian as a liturgical language much earlier, possibly 1920, but I am not close to my reference books to check when.
I must admit that it has taken me this long to read the book, because the Kobzar event is now long enough past to no longer cause me much pain. Your own book culminating in the holodomor has enough pain. And more importantly, my work as a university librarian is becoming more stable.

Paul Laverdure

murray said...

Paul, it's good to hear from you and I'm sorry the Kobzar last year made it a darker journey for you. I think I'm so used to writing and publishing being an uphill journey, replete with disappointments, that I almost expect it. I admit the Friday after the night before was pretty blue and black for me too though and I told my wife there would not be a sequel to Zo. However, I changed my mind.

To your correction: Would this be true of Uniate churches as well, ones that were as much Orthodox as anything else?

Re: The Holodomor. A local librarian read the book but then told me the ending was exaggerated, ie, such an atrocity ever occurred otherwise we would have heard more about it. I spent some time with her explaining about the genocide in Ukraine. Then started book two by putting some of the same words in Andrii's mouth.

I am glad your librarian post is feeling better. And I hope you will write again regardless of the disappointment. Your book is coming with me to Liverpool this next trip. And I am going to go and knock on the big old door of that monastery just to the side of the campus. My goodness, they are the most reclusive order I've ever come across.