A Day in the Life… by Abi Silver, author of The Aladdin Trial, out 28 June, published by Lightning Books
I find myself lurching into the morning routine around 6.45; rousing the boys for school (I have three, in their teens), sorting the washing (whites/colours), including remembering to put to one side the new white t-shirt with raspberry down the front (‘will it come out, Mum?’ delivered with considerable angst by youngest son the previous night), switching on the PC (it takes a while to wake up too), all in a kind of semi-stupor. I wrap my hands around a cup of steaming lemon and ginger tea (I’m trying to give up coffee but it’s tough) and wonder if I ever really made it into REM sleep last night at all.
Stumbling across to the study (where I write, when I write) I open a large word document and allow my wrists to sink into my newly-purchased, memory foam support, my fingers hovering phantom-like over the keyboard, as I read the title words over and over. Unconsciously, I roll my shoulders back and sigh deeply. There it is. The nearly finished draft for book three in the Burton & Lamb thriller series. Book Three. A series. A tiny gymnast in my brain does a backflip and his friends applaud.
A year ago, on my first visit to CrimeFest, a debut author had explained that, in order to keep ahead of the curve, you needed to have completed your second novel by the time your first was hitting the shops. My mouth had almost skimmed the floor, because, of course, you’ll remember what I was doing last summer when The Pinocchio Brief was launched (if not you can read about it at http://bit.ly/2tEapaZ ). But, with The Aladdin Trial (book two) coming out at the end of the month, this time I was prepared; ready, willing and eager. Well, almost.
The ending, the twist. It bothered me. Was it surprising enough? Was it plausible? Would the character really say that? Would he/she/they have behaved in that way? Was it too complicated? I really needed to be alert this morning to focus, reflect, consider, not dribbling and incoherent and sleep-deprived.
I wallowed momentarily in self-pity. Why was this happening to me? Was it because I was being smug (my nearly finished manuscript waving to me companionably, ahead of schedule, the prospect of my life returning, albeit briefly, to some semblance of normality over the summer) and God doesn’t like smug? Or perhaps (come on let’s be practical, not hysterical) it was because hubby was away again and, much as I hate to admit it, I sleep most soundly when I have a fidgeting, snoring, sometime insomniac, nocturnal bathroom-visiting, heat-radiating, other human being lying next to me.
I Google ‘REM-sleep deprivation’ (just quickly, I won’t get distracted) and find it increases sexual behaviour and aggression in laboratory animals. What a shame hubby’s not here, I muse, but perhaps it’s for the best that the boys are heading out shortly. I check the time; 7.20 and not a peep from upstairs. I do the rounds again; it usually takes three calls to do the trick.
I was prompted by a recent Tweet (are you a planner or a pantser? – as in ‘seats of the…’) to reflect on how I write. I put forward a cogent argument that I was, in fact, a pantser (I tend to have a rough sketch in my mind of what is going to happen, together with the themes I want to explore and then I just write) but this was rejected as not sufficiently spontaneous to qualify. I contemplate arguing (somewhat belatedly) that today’s dilemma is living proof that I don’t (really) plan; if I was a genuine planner, surely I would have had my unexpected denouement firmly in place by now?
The boys finally leave and I fret for a while as oldest son is sitting an A level today, middle son a GCSE and youngest son is complaining that the other two are ‘on study leave’ whilst he has to attend a full school day (!) I make a mental note not to settle to anything before 9am (when the exams start) just in case eldest son has a freak accident on the way to school (yes, he can drive – where did 18 years go?) and I must rush to the rescue (somehow, in my flip flops).
I settle down around 9.30 but I am quickly on my feet. Whenever I have difficult plot issues to contend with I like a change of scene; my bedroom is sometimes the only place to go (even though it’s not that long since I left it). I pace for around an hour, punctuated by long glances out of the window, to aid the flowing of the creative juices (not to watch the robins nesting in the hedge or to listen to next door’s dog undertaking behaviour correction lessons, which involve the word ‘No’ being repeated many times).
My thoughts finally slotting into some semblance of order, I return downstairs, open the penultimate chapter and read and edit and talk to myself in different voices. I am nearly there, I think, when the phone rings. It’s hubby calling from Helsinki. I put him on speaker and half listen to an anecdote about mushrooms, berries and herring (the menu for breakfast?) before he appreciates my mind is elsewhere and rings off.
My afternoon is fairly productive despite various interruptions and at 3pm precisely I send an email to my editor, cheekily asking if ‘now would be a good time’ to send him book 3. Reading back through that sentence, I have made it sound like such a straightforward series of events. In truth, choosing to close my manuscript for the final time, the crafting of the covering email, pressing send on my keyboard, each action is imbued with agony and self-doubt. ‘Looking forward to reading it’ he replies chirpily. And as my third novel finds its wings, I realise that I am too.
Read more about Abi here.