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Welcome to my Blog!

Sunday 11 March 2012

The Alchemical Dew and Assorted Trials!

For me writing is an Alchemical process which is not too dissimilar to baking a cake. Yes! And I am going to share a slice of mine with you over a coffee. Ready?

The deconstruction of my darlings, spoken of in the last blog I call the 'solve' or dissolving aspect of the work. It can take from a week (rarely) to a few months (commonly)! And even when it is over I am by no means on my way to making the ideal - the delicious concoction that will not only engage, but educate, not only thrill for a moment but hopefully enter into the hearts of its readers for a while making them see the world differently.

At this point, sad to say, I have merely turned the oven on and cleaned the bowl in which I will combine the ingredients.

Before I begin to create I have to ascertain what sort of creation it will be, and this is a process of building - 'coagula' - and deconstruction - 'solve' again. This I liken to the making of the shopping list and it has to do with a monumental number of possibilities because the recipe or various combinations of recipes are made up of any number of ingredients. All my research, the endless prevarication, procrastination and conversations have led me to a number of characters and plots that now appear on the list! They take turns at trying to out do one another in order of importance. I ask myself:

How many characters will I have? Which one is the protagonist? Will I use a God voice, first person or third person voice? Will it be in past or present tense? What is the structure? What location will I use, what country, what nationality? What relationship to true events? What plot will be the best vehicle for what my characters want to say - what I want to say - what the cake maker wants to say!

What tone, substance, quantity, qualification, relation, place, time, attitude, habit, action and passion?

After the peace of deconstruction one is compelled to put one's head inside an anthill again, meanwhile attempting to live day to day with family, friends, dogs and parents as if one is perfectly normal and not a   nutcase with a million recipes and combination of recipes and their assorted ingredients competing for space in their brain. At this point (labour pains come to mind), I want to scream:


This is how I deal with this moment, where one is on the verge of creation or utter ruination - without going completely mad and driving everyone else mad with me. In the day I write down everything that comes to mind on a big pad. I doodle all the time! In the night I review everything again. I take all of the possible ingredients, everything from characterisation to plot into my sleep and I allow it to die away until there into nothing. Another 'solve', another mini deconstruction! Is this difficult? Yes because once again I am creating darlings! Is it possible? Most of the time! There in lies the rub! Ha ha - a maniacal laugh.

However the upside is that in the morning, if all goes well, the myriad of possibilities that I have let go of have been cleverly and conveniently distilled into a drop of very concentrated essence I call the Alchemical Dew - the 'coagula'! If I haven't been rudely and inconsiderately bounced out of bed by anxious dogs, hungry children, husbands late for work, phone calls from my mother to see if I'm awake yet, and alarm clocks that I have forgotten to turn off, I notice it. If I am dragged out of bed with  no time for that peaceful moment to occur, I notice it later as I go about my day -  I realise that a mysterious process has occurred in the night. I have woken up feeling that something has been placed in the crucible of my soul! A little present from the elves!

I see only two or three ingredients at first, only the ones I am meant to combine at this stage, like butter, sugar and eggs. The interesting thing is, that as I bring these together, the process itself begins to dictate what needs to come next - dry ingredients, milk so on - for the proper order of ingredients will create either a sponge cake or a mud cake, a thriller or a love story - it is up to me! I am always free, I can change the recipe at any time. That is the science and the art of it!

I know I'm on the right path when I can follow the recipe, while always trusting that the great cake maker who wrote it - me - knows what kind of cake it should be in the end.

So...where am I? In my bowl I have found my protagonist! Yes indeed.  So it is 1888, the world is on the verge of war. I take a book dealer whose name I don't yet know and I combine him with a cemetery in Paris, a mysteriously locked box,  and I add a conversation with Conan Doyle about the death of a colleague and the disappearance of seven boys connected to his psychic work in London.


I bring the spoon to my mouth...mmmm...this one tastes perfect so far!

More anon...

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