Writing Into the New Year

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” – Hilary Mantel

People tiptoe around me. A few brave souls actually do ask me brightly in a tone that suggests I might have forgotten I am in the process of writing it, “Hey, where is that second book?” I thought I would let you all know. The answer is, I’m writing it. I am at the point where I am moving people and scenes around in order to determine if the story has been told. Last week out of the blue, the perfect last line dropped into my head when I was standing in the checkout line at my local supermarket. Oh happy, happy day.

I always wanted to write four books in what I think of as The Lynton Series. Not necessarily four books about the same people but four books about the same place – Lynton, New Hampshire. A small city I conjured up in my head along with all the  people living there. This second book, (the one I really am writing) Francesca’s Foundlings, is a follow-on to MacCullough’s Women and has many but not all of the same characters in it. Francesca’s Foundlings introduces a few new ones, too, like Cookie Kennedy and Georgia Deluca. They will have a much bigger role in the, as yet unnamed, third book.

Writing a series has proved to be challenging as it requires telling readers just enough back story for the new book to make sense but not enough that new readers won’t want to go back and read the first one. A task I have discovered is not as easy as it looks. 

The last four months have been hard. The last blog I wrote was about losing Grace. I am constantly reminded of where she isn’t: greeting me in the morning, impatiently waiting for her banana, curled in her basket and waiting for me at the door. It is likely you, too,  have lost someone you loved and you know there is no way to hurry through the process. Grief moves at its own pace and ambushes you when and where you least expect it.  

There are days when my characters cooperate and I know exactly what they are doing and saying to one another and, even more importantly, where they are going. Those are the days I type as fast as I can. Then, there are other days when nothing I write makes sense to me. I stare at the screen and I ask, now where is this going? This is the way the writing life works. It is an affliction that spares neither fame nor talent. Ernest Hemingway is believed to have said, “Writing is easy. Just open a vein and bleed.”  While I have not been driven to self-mutilation, I find myself opening my mouth and putting food in far more often than I should.

I am looking forward to finishing and publishing  Francesca’s Foundlings this year.  All I can say to those of you waiting to read the next book is, “Be patient.”