fine thoughts are fine but a plumber's better
I love my husband, yet although it's wonderful to discuss whether Henry James really was responsible for Constance Fenimore Woolston's death or whether Tracey Emin's work is complete junk (never having seen it, of course, but since when did that stop us?) in my next life I'm going to marry a plumber, or maybe an electrician or a decorator - at any rate somebody who can actually DO something.
You see, we're still stuck in post flood mode and there is nothing, nothing at all, more enervating than waiting for workmen. Will they, won't they turn up? Will they, won't they shake their heads and pronounce the house 'too old' for their tools? Will they, won't they make more mess than the mess they came to sort? These questions hover and haunt even as I am trying to finish book 3 of the Perfect Fire trilogy. It's one of the few times I really wished I lived at Castelneuf in 1242 and not in Glasgow in 2008, although, come to think of it, Aimery of Amouroix also has to sort out his castle after a great fire (see Book 2, White Heat, just out in the UK) so I suppose he must have had his moments. Aimery at least had a nice sword with which to prod. Don't think that would go down well here. Still, I can dream.
Lesson to be learned: if you rent out your house to film-makers, insist on portaloos and lock yours up tighter than a medieval wife's chastity belt.
Yesterday I appeared for the first time as an author at the Edinburgh Book Festival and it was quite an experience. It felt very grand to have an author pass and I must say, the whole thing is beautifully organised and civilised, quite a feat when, in this most dismal of summers, the rain has dumped down and then dumped down some more. But book folk are patient and well behaved, at least physically. The real nutters reserve their fire for questions/long rambling opinions in philosophy events. I think facilitators would also find swords quite handy, not to wound, just to swish with intent.
So - the writing. Well, the blog silence has not just been flood related. I've been so deep in the Amouroix, so involved with Raimon and Yolanda that I've scarcely emerged. Their story is more complex than that of Will and Ellie and Hosanna, and none the worse, I think, for that. In the Occitan, loyalties were divided not just in half, but often into fragments and in Paradise Red, Raimon and Yolanda have something to face that nearly floors them both. I thought long and hard about it, but it was absolutely right for the story. I shall be interested to learn whether readers agree.
I always like a fast-moving plot, but in these books I have also explored slow-burning change. Sir Hugh des Arcis, for example, who set out as one thing, is transformed into another through falling in love with Yolanda. I watched him. He couldn't help it. I simply faithfully recorded it in a way I had not anticipated.
I'm often asked if it's hard writing about times so far passed and I would have to say yes, but not in quite the way the questioner means. It's hard sometimes not to be almost paralysed by the sad fact of decreasing attention spans. Were T. H. White to send in The Once and Future King to an agent today, he would be told to cut out all the bits I find so magical - when, for example, the Wart is turned into a goose. Of what use is that to the story? But it's such great writing, it turns you into a wild goose too. Writing good historical novels involves meat as well as gravy, double cream as well as gossamer froth. You just have to hope that the reader is prepared to settle down with knife and fork and not just snatch and graze.
Myself? Today I'd settle for a book on drains even above Violet Needham's The Black Riders. Creating the past is a splendid thing but really, sometimes I'd be happy just to know which end of the plunger is the business end.