An identity change? No.
A genre change? Yes. No. Ummm…
A brand change? No. Emphatically…
The why is the easy part. In its own way, it was a challenge and it’s good for writers to face challenges. Mind you, writing a book of any kind is like climbing Everest, so is that not enough of a challenge?
But, in my case, I had just finished writing a run of six historical fiction novels and maybe, in some obscure way, I wanted a change. A gauntlet was thrown down and I accepted the challenge.
Of course, there’s always the chance of failure and one doesn’t really know whether that will happen till the title hits the marketplace. But I’ve never been one to step away from a challenge (except these days, I make an exception for ones that exacerbate vertigo) and so at the time, changing genres (in the short term) seemed like a good idea.
Passage is a contemporary fiction about one woman’s journey to the other side of loss.
Not so different to a million other titles of similar subject matter, you say.
You ask if Passage will be inherently special, surpassing all other titles of similar subject matter?
Gosh, I wish. But all books are at the mercy of the reading marketplace and only readers can be the arbiters. So ultimately, I guess it will be up to you.
My story is about Annie Tremayne, a woman who is almost seventy and who, after more than forty years of a rock-solid marriage, loses her partner in a farming accident. We take up Annie’s story a year after Alex’s death. An introvert by nature, she has lost her self-esteem and her direction, and the novel reveals her efforts to reclaim her life.
Is it a sad story?
Of course. Anyone who has faced loss of any kind faces sadness. Significant loss even more so.
But I’m hoping the reader won’t find the sadness overdone to the point where they want to pitch the book in the bin and drown themselves in a vat of wine or gin.
Annie is, by nature, a trier. She also believes her husband is at her shoulder, guiding and making rye commentary on what she sees and hears. There are moments of levity, moments where one wants to punch the air and say, ‘Way to go, Annie!’
So how different is this book from any other journey through grief and loss?
The protagonists in many of the contemporary fictions I’ve read are often products of an unsavoury partnership and their battles through grief and loss are coloured by that unsatisfactory element. Annie has had a happy marriage, a successful life, two great kids and is generally a contented person. All snuffed out in one terrible moment as she helps her husband on the farm. She has to deal with a degree of PTSD, along with grief and it’s a truly hard road as many in real life will testify.
I’ve learned much on grief through the writing of this novel, on the psychology of adaptation, on emergency triage and intensive care. In respect of grief, I’ve drawn on my own feelings at times of great loss. I’m also descended from a family of funeral directors and so was exposed to levels of loss from a very early age through my grandfather, my uncle and my cousins. The one thing I’ve noted and which we all learn as we navigate life, is that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve, no statutory length of time, no limit to what we can feel. The one thing that is proving itself more and more is that the old cliché, ‘Time heals’, appears to be true. If Annie can be patient enough, if she can build acceptance into her life, then she will hopefully come out the other side a whole person.
Annie’s life happens in my own little village of Orford on the east coast of Tasmania in the 2017-18’s. As she lives through that fateful year, we see the coast through her eyes from as far north as glorious Coles Bay, as far east as Maria Island and as far south as Hobart. It’s the first time, I’ve been so contemporarily intimate with my settings. In the hist.ficts, my settings were well rooted in what’s left of twelfth century Lyon, Venice and Constantinople. So the contemporary idea is something completely new. On the one hand I want to spruik the beauty of my island home. On the other, I want to keep it a complete secret.
In any case, I’m loving revealing Annie’s story. She has so much to give and I do believe we can all learn from her experiences.
I’m enjoying building a Pinterest board for Passage, finding faces and locations. When this happens, a book starts to become a little real. (You can see above that Almost Home was the original title of the novel but it’s now been changed to Passage.)
And just to put readers at ease, I’m a fairly emotional person and so far, there’s only been one set of tears as I write. I’ll leave it to readers to work out where that is in the narrative.
Must away. Chocolate and Annie’s story awaits.