Life Imitates Art

I haven’t written a blog in over two months, which is incredibly shameful. How can I call myself a writer? Honestly! In my defence, I have had a very busy couple of months, and I have done a lot of writing. Last time I wrote an update on how everything’s sitting on the book front, it was all looking pretty bleak. It was back in June, and I’d lost 23,000 words of my novel The Choices We Made, and I was a devastated wreck. But I had promised to be brave, to write on, to continue and battle the odds. Did I do that? Did I finish my book and save the day, grow into the hero I was destined to be? No, I didn’t.

I’ve learnt a lot about loss this year, and I think I’ve finally learnt an important lesson: time heals. More than that, time helps you grow. When I lost that 1/3 of The Choices We Made, that was the end of my world; my apocalypse. I’ve barely thought of it in months, though I did look at my pinspiration board for it earlier:
( I was reading through some of my old blogs just now (as I do), and there was one that I’d written just after losing my book, and I described it as the worst thing that had happened to me this year. Yet, six months later, I am not in mourning for my book. Time has gone by, and that empty space has begun to fill.

My book was a mirror to me, something to grow alongside, a way for me to see the things that made me special, and a way for me to see my own flaws. The Choices We Made served a purpose: it made me who I am today. This loss, which I thought I could never overcome, is now a memory. I have, dare I say it, found a replacement. I’ve gotten over it.

The reason I haven’t finished writing The Choices We Made is because I was writing another book. For months – years, even – I have been feeling like my novel CONSEQUENCE needed improvement. In terms of characterisation and plot, it was my finest achievement, but not in terms of writing style. It was too fast-paced, with not enough talent or finesse in the writing. It was lacking in description, lacking in beauty.

Back in August, I decided to rewrite CONSEQUENCE, and to focus more on the psychological natures of the characters, to make them realistic. Earlier this week, I finished writing it. That book has blossomed so much, and finally become worthy of its characters; it has become the book I have always wanted to write, and I am so proud of it, so grateful for all it has given me. Rewriting CONSEQUENCE felt like coming home. It was my roots, and it will be my wings. I love that book beyond belief, and those characters have been by my side for 3.5 years, and I have only now done them justice. CONSEQUENCE is, however, part of a trilogy, and it would not be right to rewrite only one novel.

Two days ago, at some point around midnight – in a caffeine-fuelled state of insomnia – I began rewriting AMEND, the second book in the trilogy. The first time I wrote AMEND, I despised it. I hated it with a burning passion, and couldn’t wait for it to be over. I hated my main character, and I hated the storylines; I hated everything she stood for. That had to change. Whilst rewriting CONSEQUENCE, I had been focusing considerably on making the novel more feminist (an area in which the original version was, in many ways, sadly lacking), and this would apply also to AMEND. My main character, Melinoë, will be almost unrecognisable compared to her original manifestation. She shares the same Greek mythological roots (chthonic deity of nightmares, etc), and the same role, but her nature has changed, and her driving forces have changed. AMEND was not a feminist book – not by choice, just by ignorance – and Melinoë was greatly at fault for that (as was Phoenix, not to mention all the male characters, and, of course, myself). Although Melinoë 2.0 is still a challenging character, I think that she is ultimately more palatable. I’ve made her issues more relatable, and the manifestations of her self-loathing psychological rather than physical. But, most importantly, I have given her a voice – something which she never had.

Melinoë is going to be such a pivotal character for me, because she is like no one I have ever written, not even her former self (because Melinoë 1.0 was just a bitch, with little more to her). My protagonists, no matter how they differ, always have things in common: they care about the plight of humanity (even Katerina from TCWM, in spite of her downward spiral and eventual dictatorship, cares initially), and they generally end up fighting in a revolution, and they fall in love, and they become better versions of themselves (exception: Katerina). Melinoë isn’t the voice of the people; she is the voice of the 1%. She is a future monarch, she is a misanthropist, she is, at times, heartless (I mean, she’s not a Tory, but, compared to, say, Persephone, she comes pretty close). Melinoë is the antithesis to all the positive messages in CONSEQUENCE, yet I still owe her a voice, I still owe her justice. I can’t call myself a feminist author if I only represent one type of woman. And, perhaps, by giving her a voice, I can make her struggles, and her message more feminist than they would have been if she were suppressed.

I’ve noticed that one of the strongest themes in CONSEQUENCE 2.0 is the abuse of power – on physical, emotional, and mental levels – and that theme carries through to AMEND. The biggest change in Melinoë since AMEND 1.0 is that she is now vulnerable; she has become the manipulated rather than the manipulator. How is that feminist, you may ask? It’s feminist because I am no longer glorifying characters who abuse their duty of care (*cough* Blake *cough*, *cough* Haden *cough*), and I show Melinoë as a vulnerable child, as the fifteen-year-old that she is, rather than the creep that she has been forced to become, and I feel that that is such an important step in giving her a voice. Another thing I have altered is Melinoë’s attitude to Persephone. If feel that female relationships, whether they be mother/daughter, or sisters, or friendships, or anything else, are so integral to the themes of the trilogy, and Melinoë needs to have stronger female influences in her life.

The other idea I have been toying with is making Melinoë asexual. CONSEQUENCE 1.0 was so hetero-normative (with the exception of Sol), not to mention the complete lack of racial minorities (two areas which I have been making a concerted effort to change in the rewrite), and my book simply cannot be considered feminist if it is constantly telling the same type of story from the same perspectives. In AMEND 1.0, Melinoë got together with Blake in the end (SERIOUSLY?), but in retrospect, I can see just how much of a creep his character is (how didn’t I see this the first time?), and it feels wrong to match her with him. Nobody should end up with someone who starts a revolution against them (take notes, Haden!), but it goes much deeper than that. Melinoë can’t stand other people (with the exceptions of Carmen and Macaria), and pairing her up with someone (especially the novel’s antagonist) merely for the sake of a “traditional” happy ending seems deeply wrong, and goes directly against what she aspires to. For Melinoë, being allowed autonomy would be a happy ending, and that is what I wish I could give her. However, I am not that nice, so she’s not going to get complete autonomy: she will still have to co-rule Western Russia, as she does in AMEND 1.0. The freedom I will give her, though – the freedom from romantic/sexual relationships – is a huge step for a female character, because it (like so much in this trilogy) exists also as a metaphor: a metaphor for the existence of female characters that are free from patriarchal influences. Furthermore, it made me think of the significance of my other female characters: of Phoenix, a scientist, of Persephone, a revolutionary, of Katerina (from TCWM), a dictator – these are roles where women have been, and still are, so underrepresented, roles where men still dominate. In spite of all I have said against CONSEQUENCE 1.0 and its feminist failings, I am so grateful that my fourteen-year-old self never thought twice before making one of her main characters a scientist, because life imitates art, you know? If literature shows girls that they can have careers in any field, then girls will aspire to such careers. Art is the driving force for societal progress, and I am so proud to be an artist.

My aims for the trilogy – once the rewrites are complete – is to get an agent, and go down the mainstream publishing route, rather than self-publishing as with the original trilogy. The more I write, the more important I find the messages within the books to be. I can’t help feeling that I am not so much an author, but a conduit for messages of universal truth, and they are stories which need to be told, need to be heard. So, hopefully, CONSEQUENCE, AMEND, and TRANSCEND will finally reach a mass audience.
But, for now, I leave you, reader, with the link to my AMEND inspiration board on Pinterest, in the hope that it will keep you interested (Pinterested?) until such a time comes: