|Marie Bashkirtseff - In the Studio|
Writing a novel involves any number of highs and lows, and normally at least twice in the process I feel like throwing the laptop out of the window and finding something more sensible to do for a living. Then I remember I’m not trained for anything else, and being self-employed for this long has turned me too feral for office work so I have to sit back down and get on with it. There were some real highs writing Paris Winter, there were some brick wall moments too.
|The helpful cat|
When I first delivered the manuscript to Headline, and to my editor there, Flora Rees, it had a modern narrative running through it. There were bits of it I was very pleased with, but after getting my notes back from my Flora (and getting married - though I’m not sure that had anything to so with it), and re-reading the manuscript I had to admit that it just wasn’t working. I was on my extended honeymoon in Portugal at the time and I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I skyped Flora, my mother-in-law’s cat curled up next to the keyboard, to say I thought it all needed to come out. Flora had, I think, come to the same conclusion some time ago and was gently hinting me in that direction, so I suspect she wasn’t surprised. I also remember she seemed a lot less worried than I was about throwing away a third of the book. The next few days involved a real slaughter of the darlings, as scenes and characters melted away and left no trace behind them in the manuscript. Once that painful decision was made though, the novel blossomed. Suddenly there was room for the story to breathe and I’m afraid I began to forget all about my modern characters and their stories. Playing with the cat helped. Also having an understanding husband and a shop down the road that sold a decent white wine for one euro a bottle turned out to be very important.
|The understanding husband|
I entirely rewrote the book in a month and it was incredibly satisfying. In the general slaughter though, I also killed one of Flora’s darlings. It was a scene towards the end of the novel, a key one, and I entirely rewrote it so it was seen from a different character’s perspective, and took place in a different part of the city. Flora, while of course understanding my reasoning, was sorry to see it go. Which brings me back to the paperback. As well as having a lovely quote on it from Manda Scott and a banner announcing it was short-listed for the CWA Historical Dagger, it also has a bonus track. We have put in that missing scene as an extra at the end of the novel. Has anyone else every done anything like that? And if you had the chance to resurrect a lost scene like this, adding to the end of the novel as an sort of ‘alternative reality’ for your readers, would you? And as readers, would you be interested is discovering bits of what might have been?
The Paris Winter (with bonus track) is available from Thursday.