Regarding IRON HEARTED VIOLET: where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

this is my book as it was and my book as it is. and this is my desk in the attic.

I am now, and will be for the next week, in the final stages of my work on my next book, IRON HEARTED VIOLET. This is my last chance to get my grubby little fingermarks all over the text and the story and the outcome. This is my last chance to do….. Aw, hell I don’t know. Something.

After I send the book back to Julie Sheina, my beloved editrix, then that’s it. My voice is silenced. My fingers are stilled. I may want to re-set the book on Mars or in the future or in a utopic commune in Zimbabwe, but my cries will be fruitless and my desires thwarted. Once the book leaves my fingers, it is no longer my book.

It will never again be my book.

It will belong to the reader.

And that, my friends, is a gorgeous thing. Scary, yes. But gorgeous all the same.

In truth, there isn’t much for me to do. The copy is pretty dang clean (though I’ll have my titanium-eyed husband give it a once-through just to make sure), and I’m astonishingly happy with the story itself. The weight of the words on my tongue is both both soothing and tasty, with a little bit of a spicy bite, and the yaw of consonants against my molars has a pleasing give to it. And after so many weeks away from these characters, my heart leaps within me to see them again.

Now, many of you already know that I’m a longhand-type writer. I love the scritchy sound of the pen on the paper. I love the fact that I’m forced to slow down, to breathe as my characters breathe, to worry over my inscrutable handwriting after a long day of writing and unwind the story like a bit of tangled thread.

Here is the book as it looks now: a stack of white, clean paper. Four-hundred-and-change pages of goofy fantasy goodness with a healthy dose of my nerdy, nerdy heart, forced into typeface and heavily bleached 8 1/2 by 11 paper.

But that’s not how it used to look.

It used to look like this.

(I’m actually totally astonished that the first line has remained the same. Well, almost the same. There’s a couple sentences that precede it, but the sentence is there. And it still feels like a first line.)

(See?)

 

Okay, fine, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s interesting – given that I have the tendency to be a slash-and-burn self-editor, the kind to employ the select-all-delete with wild abandon, to ceremonially set fire to drafts in the fire ring outside with a kind of mad, cackling glee. The shape and heft of the prose in my earliest drafts has remained constant. Maybe this means that I’m growing up. Or maybe it means that I’ve finally moved past the fact that I once lost a novel in a spontaneously-combusting, and subsequently exploding laptop.

(okay, fine, that last part was a lie. It wasn’t once. It was twice.)

In any case, the consistency in this bout of story-making interests me. Perhaps it is the reason that I feel so happy with the text now. Maybe there are benefits to learning to trust one’s instincts.

Now, as you can see here, there are actually two notebooks, which I have out in case I need to refer to my original drafting. The smaller of the two – it’s a little moleskin, which I get is all uber-precious-artiste-ish, and you all should totally make fun of me for using one, and I get it that they’re overpriced and show an over-abundance of Hemmingway-love, but I gotta tell ya, I love those friggin notebooks. First of all, they force you to write small, so a longhand page in one of those is roughly equal to a manuscript page, so they’re useful. Also, it fits in my purse, so it allowed me to keep my page counts up because I could scratch out a page or two at the park with the kids, or a the doctor’s office with the kids or at a stoplight while driving the kids, or whatever. Also, they’re super sturdy, so after a long time of hard wearing, the notebook has resisted any damage to the binding, loss of pages and whatever.

And you can make fun of me all you want, but I can still tell you to CAN IT.

The other notebook is from the very earliest iterations of VIOLET. Mostly, it was my initial experimentations with the narration and the character of the narrator. Originally, Violet was named Evangeline (what was I thinking?) and there was no character of Demetrius, her best friend.

But even at the very beginning, I was wrestling with this notion of story-making. Why do we make stories? And are stories always good? Can stories hurt us? Where is the truth in narrative – particularly now when news media and corporate and political operatives manipulate narrative for their own cynical ends?

I wrote this story because I loved the characters, but I also wrote it as a work of philosophy as well. In the end, I needed to wrestle with the notion of Story – and I needed my characters to do the same.

Did it work? I have no idea. But I’m pretty happy with it right now. While it’s mine. Before I release it into the sky.

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9 thoughts on “Regarding IRON HEARTED VIOLET: where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.

  1. Darn you Barnhill and your ever-present awesomeness. Every time I read your work, even just a page, I get the feeling of a nice kids book (with that happy almost singsongy prose you use) that suddenly, two sentences in, evolves into a complex, interesting, and very adult place. How in the world do you do that?

    I’m very happy to see this. Eagerly awaiting the stack of pulp at my door.

  2. Cannot wait to hold the finished book in my hands and cheer!! For you, and for Violet, who have both come such a long way together!!!

    I also cannot live without my moleskin notebooks…and I’m not ashamed in the slightest!

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