Right. Today we’re getting interactive. No sitting back and lazily reading today’s blog. I want to share with you what my book is about and I’m looking for honest feedback from you all. And I mean really honest. I want right between the eyes, good kick in the nuts kind of feedback. No telling me what you think I want to hear (like how brilliant and gifted I am). No kind feedback to avoid hurting my feelings or my pride. I need to know what you think and if based on what I’m about to share you might consider buying my book if it adorned the shelves of your favourite bookshop … or even if you would be likely to buy it for someone as a present – someone you sort of like, but not enough to put too much thought into their gift!
To date I have written close to seventy-five thousand words. It was hard at times, but it was nothing compared to the suffering I have endured trying to write a synopsis. I approached it with the idea of writing the blurb for the back of my novel when (not if – I am an eternal optimist) it is stocked in all major book stores around the globe. How hard could it be? Sweet divine Jesus and all the blessed sheep and donkeys! Why did no-one warn me? It was worse than childbirth. It was like childbirth accompanied by a written exam between contractions, and a full quick fire round after baby and placenta had been successfully delivered. I wrote, rewrote, edited, redrafted, edited and wrote again. I have lost countless hours of my life (and possibly one, if not two of my children – I’m sure they’re around here somewhere) and still I look at what I have written and all I want to do is lie down and cry. No matter how I tweak it, it never reads like it should. It falls flat and the depth and breadth of what I am writing gets lost in its limiting lines. But maybe that’s just me? Maybe I’m too close to be objective. Well, the following three hundred odd words are this damn blurb, and I want you to read it and see what you think.
‘When people suffer major trauma there is an aftermath, both physical and mental, that changes the course of their lives, and ultimately changes who they are. Survivors of trauma, at the end of their journey, have overcome all the odds. But for all those who survive, there are just as many who don’t. And unless we walk in their shoes, both the survivors and the victims, we never truly see what kind of darkness they have faced.
This novel deals with the life of Kate, a young woman from the West of Ireland, who has suffered a major tragedy – losing her husband and three children in a fishing accident. We meet her three years after the accident, when she is journeying from Ireland to a small coastal town in Alaska, to take up a new job. Through chapters, that alternate between past and present, we follow her journey and her attempts to set up a new life and move on from what has gone before, and at the same time we are given a glimpse of her history and that of her family. Kate is hiding, creating a new story for herself, far from the pitying eyes of home. She is battling depression and trying to find space and time to breathe and to see if she wants to live. When she meets Ethan Johnson, and his young son, Daniel, and when an old friend from home appears on her doorstep, she is forced to confront the demons that she has suppressed.
She is looking for peace, looking to escape her past, but she cannot escape her mind and her heart. In Alaska she finds the first glimmers of hope, but with this hope comes strong feelings of guilt and despair. Can she allow herself to be happy or will the darkness that lives just below the surface of her thoughts extinguish any possibility of a future for her?”
See what I mean? To me this reads like a Mills & Boon novel (albeit a slightly dark and twisted one). The last line jars with me so much I think I may have to put myself on a time out for turning into Jackie Collins.
So here is what my book is really about, but for obvious reasons this will not be on the back of my book – being painfully long and also giving away the entire story which wouldn’t do much for sales. Anyway …
Kate Conneely, my main protagonist, lives in Connemara with her husband, Pádraig, and her three children. She is a librarian and Pádraig an accountant. Her mother, Itsaso, comes from the Basque country, married to Kate’s father (obviously), Peadar Óg, and living in Connemara for over forty years. Kate’s older brother, Seán, is a freelance film and documentary maker, living between the US and France. He is a single man who has a very strong bond with his sister, and her children are the light of his life. And there we have it. The nice, neat package. The normal. All white picket fences and happiness.
This life, this neat package, is not what you will find between the pages of my book. You will glimpse it, almost feel it, but it will never be truly tangible, never solid, for this life is gone. The earth has slipped off its axis, the sun has dimmed and yet the world continues to turn, its inhabitants oblivious to the huge torment and suffering that exists.
The book is split between past and present. Every second chapter deals with the present. Kate making the journey to Alaska, finding her new home, beginning her job in the library. Ethan, the owner of a fishing company, and his son Daniel are introduced to us, both learning to live life without the wife and mother they lost to cancer a few years previously. We get to know Mrs Hatch, the retired librarian, Frank Wilkes, the local realtor, Clara and David Brown, the owners of the local book shop and coffee-house – all the people who populate this new chapter in Kate’s life.
Every other chapter looks back to the time directly after the accident and to the far distant past before Kate was ever born. We learn about the accident and the effect that this has had on Kate and her family. We see the hopelessness and darkness that grows, its gnarled claws suffocating the world and blocking out the light. We see Ama as a small child living through the horror of the Guernica bombing, never imagining that anything could affect her life as deeply as this did. We see the struggles, the progress, the regression, the hope, the fear, the love. We see life precariously off-balance, like the universe resting on a pin head.
The story is woven like an intricate tapestry (how big-headed am I!), each little section of the past shining more light on the harsh struggle of the present. What amazes me is that when I look at this tapestry, at what I have created, I can’t remember owning it. I know I wrote it, but it feels like the story is taking its own course now – a course that I am more than happy to follow.
As I write this Kate has just met Ethan and this is a critical moment for her. There is an immediate connection between them (welcome back Jackie Collins!) and this creates confusion and fear in her. That she could feel a connection with someone else, especially with a man, causes a surge of emotions – fear, guilt, self-loathing, despair. But buried somewhere amongst them is hope. My idea is that Kate and Ethan will become close and that this will eventually grow into something deeper (dear God shoot me now!), but whether it will work out or not? Who knows? I certainly don’t. Part of me is rooting for them, but the other part wants the story to follow its natural course. This is a tragic story, that is real, and I don’t want it to end all Hollywood and perfect. All slow motion, gleaming white teeth, perfect hair kind of wonderful. I want it to be real, not to suddenly get wrapped up in a bow and packaged neatly into happiness. But I also don’t want it to end in a hopelessly depressing way either. I just want it to end as it should.
Ok, sorry. I’ve rambled on, and probably told you all too much (I have a rough idea of where you all live mind, so if any of you steal my idea, I will find you and I will kill you – let there be no doubt in your mind about that!).
Now, over to you. Would this be something you would read? What do you think of the actual blurb? Did you love it or did you get the sudden urge to vomit? Give it to me straight. I’m ready. I can take it. By the way, did I ever tell you how sexy and gorgeous I think you are? And how much I love you all? … sorry … I’ll stop now and let you at it. I’ll be lying here, foetal position on the floor of my bedroom, drooling and mumbling to myself, waiting for your feedback. No pressure.