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.
I’m still not sure if I can read Annie’s story without feeling my own loss, but I realize that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I suspect that I will be tempted to compare my own coping with hers, to see if I did better or worse, and feel pride rather than sympathy. I’ll read the book as her story rather than mine and do my best. I’ll also remember that anything written by you will be a wonderful STORY.
I understand what you are saying, Pat. In my own case, I’ve been thinking of whether the losses I have experienced equal Annie’s on any count. Do loss of parents, dogs, horse, home, best friend equate to losing one’s soulmate?
Different scales, I think.
But I suppose no matter the circumstance, grief is the same emotion. It has to be experienced, dealt with, accepted, worked through. I sometimes think the book needs to be re-titled: Life through a Janus Mask.
By the way, you are typing well with a broken arm!!! XXXXXXXXXXX
Prue, I am looking forward to reading your new book. When you speak above about whether your experienced losses equal Annie’s, I don’t think that we can actually compare our “losses” with those of others. I feel that loss is something personal, unique to each person. We all handle our “losses” in our own way and one cannot judge another if they don’t “agree” with how the loss is being dealt with. It’s not fair to say that I handle loss better or worse than you would (it’s not a contest). I don’t think that losses can be compared. In reading a book about loss, I think it best to say that one will see that they are not alone in the sorrow, anger and other such emotions that they experienced, even if the loss is not the same as the one experienced by the reader. You said it right – no matter the circumstance, grief is the same emotion.
Beautifully said, Judy. It’s the common experience – the one thing in life that we really can’t avoid, isn’t it?
Thanks, Prue. We definitely can’t avoid it. My experience with my Father’s death changed my outlook on life as it made me more aware that time is precious and sometimes shorter than we want it to be. Never take anything for granted. Cheers!
I think we l deal with grief differently, There is no right or wrong way, I think we deal with it the best we can, and get through it in our own way. I think too that the relationship with the person or pet can affect how we grieve for them.
Exactly. Grief is a fluid thing, no ‘one size fits all’.