Thursday, 17 January 2013

Traces of Love

'The only thing of importance when we depart
will be the traces of love left behind'

Happy New Year - how are you all? Raring to go, resolutions in place? It's unusually cold in the desert. I write with a pug on my feet and a cat wedged behind my back on the desk chair - I like to think it's love, but they are probably trying to keep warm. The shamal is whipping through the palm trees, sand snaking across the road like djinns. I've just done a photoshoot for the local equivalent of 'Hello' - less 'welcome to my gracious home' than 'oh Lord, where can I hide all the Lego and will they notice there's dog hair all over the sofa'. My daughter said to me 'it's not a bikini photoshoot is it?' - something even I hadn't thought to panic about. Fortunately, not.

So how were your holidays? We were in the UK for a couple of weeks over Christmas, the first time in three years. It was peaceful, rainy, cold - muddy walks, slow-cooking stews and soups, building a log fire each night - the perfect remedy for a tough year. I finished the first draft of the new book, (there's something zeitgeisty about the 70s setting - Bowie's new single, the Glam Rock exhibition in London, a Hockney retrospective ...). Do you buy into the idea of synchronicity - of the signs that the world throws at you if you're on the right track? I've lived with a hero who is like the lovechild of David Bowie and Terence Stamp for the last months - entertaining but high maintenance. Now pop culture seems to be having a 70s moment.

Writing historical fiction about an era you've lived through has been interesting - not only fact meets fiction, but personal history. In Dad's papers, I found some photographs of the house in today's picture. It was the house I almost grew up in. For him, it was the one that got away, a ghost house that haunted him - and I hadn't realised how much it affected me until I saw the photographs and realised it's always, always the house I have in mind writing, the domestic protagonist. I still remember vividly walking through its empty rooms, the slumbering outbuildings. Maybe that's something to think about with your work too - do you think the people you love shape the ghosts that haunt your writing, do they form the 'bones' that give it strength?

Now, back in the desert, back to school and to work the decks are temporarily clear. I'm glad to be looking forward, at a new diary, empty(ish) pages full of possibility. There are publication dates marked up - the audiobook of 'The Perfume Garden', has just come out, the Spanish and German editions coming soon, and the English paperback. In March, there's the Emirates Lit Fest - still have to pinch myself when I look at the author list. But apart from that, the future looks bright and clear. The poignancy of transferring dates - important birthdays, people no longer around to celebrate them this year, was tough. I miss them, it's that simple. Every day. But something interesting has happened - the 'traces of love' Schweitzer described so well in a passage I read over Christmas are stronger, burning brighter than ever. That love is a new strength, a new determination to make those people proud, to live up to their memory. Here's to success. Let's make this a good year.

TODAY'S PROMPT: Why don't you tell us about your writing resolutions? The variables - the recession, the market - nothing you can do about that, but what can you do to up your game and write the best work you can? Three wishes - three things you're determined to do, in the spirit of 'if you build it they will come'. Let's start the ball rolling: I'm going to write a short e-book. I'm going to edit two novels for publication. I'm going to write something contemporary. Now, your turn ...

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