Something a little different today. I’m delighted to host a guest post by the wonderful author Louise Beech as part of the blog tour for her latest novel The Mountain In My Shoe – published by Orenda Books. Louise’s novel How To Be Brave was one of the best books I read last year and The Mountain In My Shoe promises to be a contender for this year’s list too.
Without further ado..
Adversity and inspiration….
During the Hull launch of my second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, writer Russ Litten asked about what it was like writing a first novel compared with later ones. It’s a fantastic question, one I’ve been thinking about a lot since, and one I perhaps didn’t fully address in the excitement of a public interview, and with my mum heckling on the front row. What I think the question is referring to, is that writing without having been published (that is without acceptance, that magical YES) is different to writing with the safety net of a deal. Or is it?
The first book I penned (Maria in the Moon which is ‘pencilled in’ for publication next year) and my new one, The Mountain in my Shoe, were both initially written under the shadow of uncertainty. When I wrote Maria we had just endured the worst floods in UK history, those that hit Hull and other cities in 2007. We lost our home, belongings and car in hours. Worse still, my daughter became ill and I gave up my job in travel to care for her. As she got a little better, and while she was at school, I began writing. And writing and writing and writing. At a rickety metal desk that my husband had fashioned for me, with workmen banging away, rebuilding the town, I typed away. At that point I wasn’t thinking of publication; only getting the words out.
Adversity is a great place for inspiration. It’s not a great place to permanently live, but without it we don’t grow, survive, or scream to be heard.
When I wrote The Mountain in my Shoe a few years later I’d had thousands of rejections for my first two manuscripts. In many ways, I was changed. I was tougher. On both myself and on my work. I was hungry. I use this word not in a Scarlett O’Hara way, as she quite literally digs for food in the ground at Tara, but in an ‘I must make this happen’ way. And being hungry, I feel, is good. Wanting something makes you work. It makes you perfect your craft. It makes you rewrite and edit harshly. It teaches you.
So yes, I think there’s a difference in writing before publication and after. When editing The Mountain in my Shoe recently I was able to see it more clearly. The hunger is great for driving you, but having been accepted gives you clarity. You can breathe, you can calmly assess what works and what doesn’t. You can take on the edits suggested by your publisher, you can really see it.
In currently writing my fourth novel, I’m in a better place. I’m lucky enough to see the success of my debut, How to be Brave, continuing; lucky enough to see great reviews for The Mountain in my Shoe coming in; and lucky enough to be doing this writing stuff for real. To be writing for actual readers.
But no matter what happens, how many books I write, how much success I do or don’t have, I’ll never forget that hunger. That rickety desk, the tears of frustration and sadness, the loneliness, while hearing my world getting rebuilt. Because I created something I’ll never quite create again.
Do check out the other stops on The Mountain In My Shoe blog tour.