Hey folks. A slightly different WIP Wednesday this week: Five things you should know about the book I’m working on.
1) The title is winding and long-winded, and so is the story.
Anika takes the long way home up soul mountain is the longest, strangest title for a book I’ve ever invented. It’s like a road that curves and twists and takes forever to get to its destination. The title reflects the narrative. The story jumps between shifting timelines, shifting storylines, shifting relationships between the characters. It’s definitely an artistic challenge to write, because it’s a little ambitious to manage so many timelines and storylines. I’m only about 20% finished, but I already see that this book could easily get TOO twisty-windy and become uncomfortably long-winded. I’m trying hard to grapple it into submission so that it doesn’t turn out that way.
2) The story has a lot to do with the statement “You can never go home again.”
A major undercurrent of this story is Anika’s relationship to her hometown and all the things her hometown entails — family, her ex, the identity she falls into once she’s back in Ohio. Anika has to figure out if she’s going to resist being in Ohio for the rest of her life, or accept that home is home, like it or not.
I think a lot of us LGBT people have mixed feelings about our hometowns, especially those of us who grew up in rural places or small towns. There’s something about it that is intimately familiar and somewhat comforting, because it’s a place that helped to shape you and define you, but at the same time, a lot of us from small towns also associate home with prejudice, rejection, and pain. It leads to a love-hate relationship with the word “home” that often never gets resolved.
3) If the mad past, on which my foot were based, were firm, or might be blotted…
That’s a line from the George Meredith poem I quote in To Have Loved & Lost. The point of the quote — and a huge theme in the book — is the way our past never really leaves us. One thing I’m trying to show, and I guess I did the same thing in THL&L, is that we never really “get over” what’s happened to us in our lives, we just sort of learn to live with it and integrate it into our present in as healthy a way as we can.
In the book I’m working on now, Anika’s past is constantly shaping her present — her past relationship with her ex-wife, the long and complicated history she has with different family members, even her relationship to who she used to be. All of these things congeal together to push Anika in certain directions in her present.
4) It’s kind of a mid-life crisis book.
Until this book, I’ve always written characters much younger than me. I’ve got five young adult books out under a different pen name starring 16 – 18 year-olds, and THL&L features kids in their early twenties. I like young characters because I think we’re all especially interesting when we’re young. Our personalities are still being formed, and we have life-changing experiences that shape the rest of our lives. As a writer, I really like exploring those big “firsts” — first love, first break up, first major success, first ego-altering failure.
But this book explores a different dynamic period in life — the beginnings of middle age, when we first realize that we won’t be eternally young and that what we have and who we are right now is probably what we will have and who we will be for the rest of our lives. It’s that shift that occurs when you see someone young and attractive and realize with a shock that they don’t even (won’t even) see you because to them, you’re already ancient.
Anika’s going through this shift in this novel, and she’s asking herself the hard questions about what she really wants the rest of her life to be about.
5) Be prepared for it to be so, so different from THL&L.
I want to prepare readers who loved my first lesfic that this story is not that story. It’s trying to do something very different. Maybe the best way to describe it is that THL&L eventually ends with the triumphant message that “Love conquers all” and follows a journey of deep healing for the two leading ladies, but in this new story, you’re not going to see one character “rescuing” the other one. If anything, Anika realizes it’s up to her to rescue herself.
And it’s not so focused on two leading ladies, either. It’s mainly about Anika. She’s telling us her story in first-person, guiding us This Is Your Life-style through the places she’s been and the people she’s known. There’s a romance element, of course, but that’s not front-and-center. What’s front-and-center is Anika’s efforts to resolve her past and accept her present and her future. There will be a happy ending, because I’m a sucker for happy endings, but it’s not necessarily the ending Anika wanted or expected.
Anyway. I can’t wait to share it with all of you. I’ll be extremely curious to see how you respond to it. I have a feeling that it’s going to be one of those books you either love or hate. * grimace face — 😐 *