An Autumnal Update

Another blogpost, another inexplicable gap in my life to account for.

Once more, quite a bit more time elapsed this time round than I hoped for, and this time I don’t have a great deal to say for the (unexpectedly long) absence. I wasn’t really up to a great deal besides working and squeezing in the odd spurt of Shadow. In all honesty I had hit something of an impasse for at least a month on it – sitting down to write several times and barely being able to shit out any coherent words at all, let alone meaningful additions to the wordcount – but in the last week or so I’ve managed to make quite a pleasing dent in it (about 3000 words or so, 2000 of which came from one night alone). I’ve just crashed through two quite pivotal, but quite nightmarish Chapters, where Jason gathers the assembled heroes for the first time in Iolchus and convinces them to join him on his quest to steal the Golden Fleece from Colchis.

As you can imagine it’s an incredible scene, and one with a lot of pressure to get right. Balancing not only a monumentally important plot point (the fulcrum around which the entire story pivots, you could argue) but also the correct elements of characterisation (between so many larger-than-life characters, many of whom are already the subject of reams and reams of Classical literature), as you can imagine, is no mean feat. Still, I’m more or less out the tunnel’s other side now, and am nearing the end of Part I of the novel. Getting this bit under my belt already is going to make the rest of the research and planning considerably easier, and generally feel like a milestone to show for the last few months.

Like lots of my writing, it’s also been a pleasant surprise to see how unexpectedly things unfold along the way, regardless of whatever I plotted at the outset. I always knew this story would be a deliberate unravelling of the ‘themes’ of heroism and valour, and peel back the legend of Jason’s quest to expose some of the uglier or more mystical truths beneath it, but even this early into the story the motivations of several of the characters have taken me by pleasant surprise. The motivations that drive Jason to challenge Pelias, for Pelias to send Jason on his quest, for Jason to agree to do it and most crucially of all for the heroes to agree to join him are not what you think. But then, truth can sometimes get in the way of legends. It’s going to be even more intriguing for me to follow these character threads to the end, and even more so hopefully for people who read it.

In all honesty the last couple of months have been a slight comedown from summer’s giddy high. I always knew that after committing so much time and energy to Hamlet – a commitment I was more than willing to make, I might add – that I wanted the second half of the year to be more solitary, and give me more time to devote properly to Shadow after umming and ahhing on it for god knows how long. I dealt with the heatwave weather considerably more easily than I had hoped to, with my pain barely troubling me at all.

Though now, however, things have rather lost their lustre in comparison. Work has stepped up now term has started again, the weather has turned a little less kind (though if anything, the cooler temperatures have been more troublesome for me painwise, with my having to wear more layers, and stepping out of the cold into considerably warmer buildings more often). It’s all been a bit of a contrast from doing Hamlet, enjoying summer weather every day and night, and constantly mixing with friends in and out of doors.

The snap from rehearsing, performing, socialising and the general living and breathing of a play back to ‘civilian life’ can be quite a jarring, and occasionally painful, adjustment (as anyone who’s ever been part of one will tell you). All the more so when your default existence, by virtue of job and circumstance, is fairly isolated. The last fortnight hasn’t really helped my ennui. This last week I managed to catch a stinker of a cold, which although now has passed, has left the most irritating cough I’ve ever had. To top it all off, it happened on a week when I was left alone while my folks went away, when I had several fun things to do specifically planned. Here I am, by contrast, a week later, with my plans scuppered, an extra week of work to do and having to clear my throat every 30 seconds.

So yes, I’m not overly looking forward to this coming winter. I do admittedly have a few fun things lined up; a couple of plays I’m going to see in London, and the wedding of a long-time friend which I can’t wait for. I managed to bust out of the gate a few times in September, going to London for a couple of book signings I didn’t want to miss. After meeting the lovely Elodie Harper and getting her to sign my copy of The House With The Golden Door in May, over the last few weeks I was able to meet her again, alongside Jennifer Saint and Claire North, where I picked up a signed copy of the latter’s new book Ithaca.

Not long after I was able to see Natalie Haynes be interviewed at the British Library, and have a great chat with her about the vagaries of literary agents and their reasons for rejecting manuscripts, all while she signed my copy of her newest book Stone Blind.

And, of course, I can never go to London without snapping away on my phone, so here we are. I’d never had the chance to explore Camden Lock before – what a place that is! – but returning to my old stomping grounds around the Southbank, Holborn and Seven Dials was a welcome reminiscence too.

And to top it off, a little while back I was introduced to the beautiful gimmick that is the Penguin Classics Cover Generator. While it’s mostly meant as a bit of fun for whatever title and picture you want to slap on their format, it did allow me to come up with this snippet of a parallel world where my novel did get traditional representation:

One day, folks.

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