Sunday, 19 February 2017

Says Alice by Jan Edwards

In moments of idleness random subjects frequently leapfrog through my mind in rapid succession, turning subjects not merely on their heads but morphing them into something else entirely.
Today, whilst making tea and boggling at the latest news headlines drifting from the radio, the process was begun in recalling the quote from Alice that runs, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Through the Looking Glass, ch 5.)

 I am a lifelong devotee of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and its companion Through the Looking Glass.  I loved these books as a child and again in my teens when they were must-read volumes of the ‘flower child’ revolution, and I have loved them ever since. So when I came across a gloriously OTT reading of Carroll’s Jabberwocky’ by Benedict Cumberbatch I was delighted and shared it around with glee. In the very same week  the great actor Sir John Hurt passed on, and in the plethora of obits and postings on social media I spotted a clip of Hurt reciting the same poem on the Charlie Rose show. I was blown away.

It set me wondering if, despite a lifetime of avoiding designer and celebrity culture, I had connected them through synchronicity, or familiarity, or a combination of the two.  Had I viewed either link because it was ‘The Jabberwocky’ or because it was recited by two favourite actors?  Are we pre-programmed to be a member of the pack?
That question in turn reminded me of a recent conversation amongst fellow writers discussing the merits of a series featuring a specific protagonist against stand alone novels. And the conclusions of that particular debate? That there is much to be said for fresh and innovative fiction, which stimulates the imagination with the joyous exhilaration of venturing into the unknown. On the other hand which of us has not settled in front of the tv to watch a favourite cop show or soap because nestling in that comfort blanket of familiar faces and scenarios is often every bit as enjoyable.
I have, for example, read and reread the SF ‘Pern’ books of Anne MacCaffrey avidly over many years; likewise, Christie’s ‘Marple’ and Sayer’s ‘Wimsey’. These are fictional characters whose exploits are all the more exciting because the lead character is an old friend.  In my case this extends not merely to the Dragon Riders of Pern, Miss Marple or Lord Peter Wimsey, but also (amongst many others) to Paul Finch’s deep and frenetic ‘Heck’, Chris Fowler’s delightful ‘Bryant & May’ or our own Debbie Bennett’s dark tales of ‘Michael’ or ‘Lenny’. We read them because we care about the fate of well drawn fictions and, not withstanding whether or not we’d invite those characters around for tea, we do want to know what happens to them.
Those points led me onto my own specific problems with a planned crime series that starts with Winter Downs which is currently swirling around in the vortex of editing hell.  It is not unusual to hear writers denounce the editing process as an outrage to their authorial integrity. But I am of the school who believes in the necessity of the skilled pair of eyes that is the editor. They spot not only repeated or misspelled words and phrases but also those clich├ęs and continuity glitches which the writer is invariably too close to the script to see.
That said the whole process is a long slog, one which can easily take up as much time as the original first draft. And once a manuscript has shuffled back and forth between myself and my editor for the umpteenth time... I for one begin to wonder what the hell I think I am doing. Surely I can’t be the only one who begins to doubt the book and themselves at this point in the process?  That feeling of having been through every word so many times that they begin to feel not merely familiar but positively suffocating. A rhetorical question as I know others have voiced the same feelings of reaching the end of that long tunnel and (with apologies for the cliche) beginning to pray the light at the end really is a train.
Time to step away, I am told. Time to indulge in something fresh, and, by distancing myself from individual words and phrases, attain some perspective and see it as a whole.
All of the above flitted through my mind in less time then it took to boil the kettle for tea - from Jabberwocky to missed commas in under a minute in my butterfly mind, which makes such immediate and perplexing connections between tenuously linked subjects.  Not something to inspect too closely, I suspect.
It is time for me to move on to something new, at least until the editor has passed final judgement; time to get those juices flowing with a totally fresh project.  Or there again... Maybe I can go over that tricky passage in chapter ten just one more time.

Jan Edwards can be found on:
Twitter: @jancoledwards

Titles in print – all available in print and dig formats
As author: Fables and Fabrications;  Sussex Tales;  Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties

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