Would best describe my feelings as Of Honest Fame whizzes its way through the printing process for release on the 8th October. And if there have been those of you who have wondered what’s become of Bennetts over the past few weeks and months–that is the answer.
I’ve been finishing the book: writing six or more hours a day (okay, that was a lie–lots, lots more), editing, proofing, rewriting, editing, editing, rewriting…proofing to the nth degree.
(The other reason for the silence chez Bennetts has been a stinking cold these past few days. So I’ve been confined to, er, quarters. Which was kind of a let-down…)
But as I’ve lain upstairs, thinking over the book, did I get it right? Did it achieve all I’d set out to do? Is the ending worth it? I have suddenly been filled today with the most stupendous happiness and conviction of ‘yes, I got it right’. I did achieve all that I’d set out to do. Yes, it works.
(I’m still not allowed to talk though. That would be because I sound like a bass-baritone but without the charm. So that would be Figaro withouth the charm…which leaves…Attila. Oh, great…)
This is not to say that there haven’t been terrific challenges, right up to the end, in getting this book done.
For example, I had tentatively planned a hinted past love affaire between one character and an historical personage…who I found out was only 14 or 15 at the time of the book’s action–so that, er, plotline had to be scratched out. Completely.
(And that’s only one of the plotlines that fell away during the writing of the thing.)
Then too, I also discovered that there’s been a great deal of recent research which proves that Bow Street (that’s the pre-cursor of our modern police force, although they were mostly investigators of serious crime in 1812-13) was also heavily involved in domestic espionage–early MI6 work, if you will. So that had to be accommodated in the story…that was about four weeks ago, I read all that…
(Okay, the other reason no one’s allowed to talk to me is that I’m still coughing like a finale for La Traviata. Which brings up another interesting question: why do blokes never get consumption in operas? Or novels? Because in real life, they did. I mean, it’s what Napoleon’s son, the King of Rome, died of…when he was 21.)
But it’s been a most tremendous journey of a novel. One which, well, until about a year ago, I never expected–not really–to make.
I’d had the idea of the novel for years, had written the opening three chapters, and then had left it. And was determined not to spill my guts out into it if it was never going to go anywhere. And then, of course, my superlative publisher stepped in and gave me the nudge.
(Okay, it was more the kind of nudge that pushes a reluctant sky-diver out of the door of an aeroplane, but what of that?)
And all I can tell you is that it’s been wonderful.
It has taken me on a journey through history, through the geography and ancient cities (using period engravings) of Poland and Bohemia (modern-day Czechoslovakia), alongside historical personages of such daring, moral strength, courage and humour…it has led me to study London and Paris as they were, from old maps, circa 1812. To read and to learn everything I could about the climate of that period, both in England, but also in Europe. And then, to weave all of that with the great loves of my life–music and horses–into what I believe is a most compelling and engaging narrative.
There were, or course, many (too many) times too when I felt I’d lost the plot…that is, that I’d either lost my ‘voice’ or had lost sight of the integrity of a character, had lost my understanding of his character. At those moments then, I would need to retrace my steps and remind myself where he had gone, what he had seen and done, re-establish for myself his relationships with all the other characters in the narrative, and thus recapture the language of his head and heart.
This wasn’t always easy. But as I reflect on the whole now, this, like every other element that went into the creating of this novel, made it what it is. I got it right. And I am so delighted–and grateful–with the result.
Therefore, as we approach this season of launches for the thing, and talks, and all of that publicity for this book, please, may I warmly invite you to come and join me/us. I’m truly excited about this book. I think it’s super. I think the characters are super. And I hope above all, that you’ll like it–I hope that very much.
So there you are: Of Honest Fame–Gambler, gaoler, soldier, sailor, smuggler, spyman, traitor, thief…