I have just completed the draft of Bursting with Life! taking the overall word total of my sixteen written novels (see the complete list) to more than two million. Who would have thought I’d write so much when I began my first novel, The Reaches, fourteen years ago in 2007.
Bursting with Life! was uncharacteristic. Not only was it written in part in parallel with another novel (The Cloud Catcher), but it was only in the final chapters (there are one hundred short chapters in all) that I understood what the story was really about. Rather like my characters, I’d been grappling with the impossible and the struggle could have gone on for ever. In reality, the answer was elsewhere and came only just in the nick of time to finish the book.
Here’s a short extract from early on in which Vint, the principal character, is questioned by Tara, a wild girl he’s just met, about a central facet of himself he’s always taken for granted.
“So why were you in the Centre?” she asked once they’d settled at the table and begun to eat.
“Treatment,” he replied, not wanting to say more.
“What does that mean?” she wondered, sipping her shandy.
“Pills. Tests. Talk. Lots of talk. And more talk.” As if talking would make any difference. He often wondered if psychiatrists were paid by the word.
She skewered a lump of cheese with her knife and popped it in her mouth looking quizzically at him. “Who says?”
He ceased his chewing and stared at her blankly. What an odd question. Was she mocking him? Was it not self-evident? “Everybody…” he said, suddenly unsure of his answer.
“And do you believe them?” she asked, raising the bottle to down the last of her shandy.
He hesitated. He’d never asked himself. Surely all those experts couldn’t be wrong. He shook his head as he began to doubt. They’d been wrong about the pills, hadn’t they? What if they were wrong about his illness? “I don’t know,” he replied.
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