Something Solid

My agent wants me to write her a YA. It’s one of the more fun ways to write a book, either for said agent or for my writing partner. It fees me up to do a lot of things I wouldn’t normally, since I’m not writing for anything but their happiness. Given my druthers, I’d probably work half on the projects that sink their teeth in my head and need to be popped and drained like an access (what a mixed metaphor, ew) and half on personally tailored books that make my writing partner or agent happy. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to do both to the extent that I have. Most of them end up selling, though no YA publishers will take Rattlesnake Wind because it’s “too brutal”. I keep telling them it’s not a YA, it’s a book with a teenage protagonist and that doesn’t automatically make it YA, but they don’t listen. Which is fine, it would kill me to have that particular book edited by committee, and I would not be graceful to suggestions like “give her another love interest!” or “make her more LIKABLE”.

Fuck that noise.

So I gave my agent a choice: Robin Hood with werewolves, or a cult–both books I have scaffolding in my head for, ready to be built upon. She picked the cult. All yesterday I was tooling around with it, turning it this way and that, and now I know where the book actually starts (which was not anything I’d written yet) and where it finishes. The things in the middle are hazy, but that’s always the way. Getting there is most of the fun.

This morning, absorbing coffee and scheduling the day out, I suddenly had the first scene. It burst upon me in hallucinatory detail, tied to a very specific sound: car tires on a long, unpaved country driveway.

When you think about it, tires crunching on gravel is one of the worst sounds in the world. It sounds like thousands of little teeth grinding away at each other, a real headache right through the ears. With the windows—even the cracked ones—open for a little bit to air the farmhouse out, it reverberated through plain rooms and rattled in my head in the kitchen, where I stood in front of the balky old stove trying to convince it to boil a pot of water. You had to watch it and not let the element go for too long, or it would blow a fuse and you’d have to troop into the cellar, past dusty shelves with non-dusty jars of preserves and pickled beets—ugh—to flip it. Well, there were other things pickled besides beets down there, to be honest. For once we hadn’t worked through all the string beans or the pickled garlic. The woodstove in the living room was hot, and I’d have to close everything up and sheet the windows before too much longer, or it wouldn’t warm up in there and I’d shiver all through the night.

*peruses paragraph above* Not bad. It needs work, of course, but there’s a definite voice in there. She’s speaking loud and clear. Next she’ll look out one of those cracked windows they have to block with towels in the winter, and see what’s coming down the drive. It won’t be pleasant, of course. It never is.

So that’s today’s work all laid out for me, a tiny feast. It’s nice to be back in the engines of creation again, after so much revising. For all its frustrations (oh, and there are plenty of those) that’s the part I like best. The heart-trembling-in-throat sense of breaking new ground, stringing together the words, uncovering the new set of people in my head and their various joys and tragedies. All this, and best of all, I can wear pyjamas while I forge a whole new world. Though today I probably won’t, since there’s other things to be accomplished.

But for most of the day, I’ll be at the forge, hearing the music of hammer and anvil, and making something solid where before was only air. Best job in the world.