Monday, July 30, 2007


Gosh, it does seem like a long time since I've written one of these. Actually, it seems a long time since I've written anything at all. While in New Zealand during the second month of touring, I sat on the bed of my guest house one day and tapped out a thousand words, but it was mainly to demonstrate to myself that I could still write. I missed my routine, and my office, and I'm not very good at snatching time to write while travelling. So, when the tour came to an end in Taiwan last week (a lovely place, and lovely people), I decided that, rather than continue to travel (it's curious that, tired though I was, the urge to keep moving persisted. I guess travel is like a bug, after all . . .) I decided to return home to real life, or real life insofar as my life seems to consist mainly of sitting around and making stuff up, which isn't very real at all.

So today is my first day back at my writing desk, in my little office, surrounded by my books and notes. I wrote a new prologue for The Reapers, and revised a couple of chapters. It was a relief, to be honest. I was afraid that I would sit at my desk and find that my mind was a blank, or that I would still be yearning for strange countries and new people, for a novelty that is alien to any routine.

Touring is a strange existence. I stay in nice hotels. People are exceptionally kind. (I was met with a bunch of flowers by the manager at my hotel in Taipei, which admittedly doesn't happen very often, but it was just one example of a great many kindnesses that were shown to me in Taiwan.) Readers come along to get their books signed, and they say nice things about me to my face. If I'm lucky, I get some time to wander by myself in a new city. I get taken to dinner a lot. There are interviews for newspapers, radio, and television, and the interviewers treat me as though I have something interesting and sensible to say which, sometimes, I do, although sometimes I think I just pretend to be interesting and sensible, and I worry that, if I have to try very hard to be interesting and sensible, am I actually very interesting and sensible at all?

So, after two months of not doing things that are very mundane, it can be difficult to return to the nuts and bolts of what I really do for a living, which is write. It was hard, in a way, to sit down at my desk this morning. Dumb, I know, and nothing worthy of any sympathy, but suddenly I was faced with the reality of a book that I had left unfinished in May. True, I had been thinking about it for two months, and new elements and plots had revealed themselves in that time, but now, once again, I had to deal with the practicalities of writing it.

I engaged in displacement activities: e-mail, the myspace stuff that had built up over two months. I considered sorting out my receipts from the tour. I spoke to my postman, then spent too long opening my mail. Then, at last, I opened the file marked 'The Reapers'.

There are two strands to the book, one dealing with the present, the other dealing with the past of Louis. Both come together, in the end, or they will if I ever get to the end. Sitting down this morning, I thought: where do I begin? The past, or the present? Do I try to pick up where I left off all those months ago? Do I try to make a new start? Do I try to finish what was begun, or do I return to the beginning and start over?

I went back to the beginning. I wrote a new prologue. I took the second chapter and joined it to the end of the first. It may not stay that way, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I read the third chapter, and made some changes. It needs to be longer, but it reads okay. I'll add to it in subsequent drafts.

It's now 3.30pm. I've made a start.

And, you know, it wasn't so hard after all . . .

This week John read

The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith

and listened to

Our Love to Admire by Interpol