It dawned on me yesterday that, as an indie author of six months, I could see a trend in what I get asked about writing my first novel, Ruby and the Blue Sky.
The most common question is ‘how long did it take?‘
Really I want to answer ‘a lifetime’. It feels two blinks and a heart beat since I was writing Hobbit fan-faction featuring giant spiders aged 10 and since I gave Crime a human form. There’s a been a lot of practice since then and a lot of learning. Much of it under the talented tutelage of Dame Fiona Kidman in her classes that later became a Whitirea Polytechnic course. I’ve had a couple of dry runs at novel writing, photocopied and shared with whanau. One whispers to me from its box under the spare bed. One day it might entice me to unleash it on you.
What people really want to know is how long did it take me to write the 75,000 words that are this novel and, implicitly, the 75,000 more that were scrapped along the way. The collection of scribbles that became Ruby and the Blue Sky started to accumulate in my notebooks around 2010. They settled around the ‘What if?’ question. What if someone with mass popular appeal really worked to lead change? As I’ve written int he guest-blog here, the novel didn’t take shape until the following year, when I visited Leeds and the city crystallised the scribbles into the drafts that became the book.
I set it aside for most of a year at one stage, finding myself failing to progress either the manuscript or a non-fiction publishing project, an online course in ethical marketing. Once the course was launched, I revisited the draft with fresh eyes and the novel is better for its fallow time. By December 2015 it was written, rewritten and a year of major edits complete. From then til I published took another six months of research into how to self-publish, commissioning the cover design, proof-reading, copy edits, layout, file formatting, completing tax forms and launch organising. So, about four years writing, very part-time, around running one business and launching another, and six months to publish, all told.
The second most common question has been ‘how much is autobiographical?‘
When people have read the novel, this is frequently focused on the music; Ruby, the protagonist, fronts a band, singing and playing guitar. I don’t do either but it pleases me immensely I could imagine it well enough to make Ruby so convincing. The only elements drawn from my life are a passion for nature, living in Leeds, which I did for nine years, and working in groups to make change, which I do to this day. The rest is made up. Except for climate change of course. THAT IS ALL REAL, whatever the US president might think. All the science is as accurate as I could make it, including the geo-engineering.
Thirdly, and easiest to answer; ‘are you writing another one?‘
Yes, dear reader, I am.