I have a thing for English novels, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskil, George Eliot, the Bronte Sisters, Thomas Hardy. What draws me to them? I am not English, I am not born to wealth, I do not have a rags to riches story. But again and again I am compelled to read these stories, get inside the head of the characters, and it is the characters that I return to, that draw me into the web of story.
The wit of Elizabeth Bennett, the goodness if not fool-hardiness of David Copperfield, the misguided Tess, the saintly Jane, but are these the stories I want to write? No not at all, firstly I only know about the 19th century through the novels I have read, secondly who, from this century, would choose to write such contrived plots and flowery prose? Still there is something there, something of the time and place, something of the virtue and of the unreality of it all, all men are kind, all woman virtuous, all time organized, the regality of taking a turn about the garden, the vulgarity of the streets of London pressing and oppressive, the smell, the sweltering heat, the dismal rain and fog.
Perhaps it is the unreality that I like the best, the fact that it may never have been, and certainly is not now the world I or anyone else lives in, but there is a magic there, a sense of anything can happen, its much the same kind of magic that I felt the first time I read The Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the sense that anything can happen and whatever does happen, it is happening in just the right way and in just the right time.
And that’s what I want to accomplish with my stories. I want to capture the wonder of a time, a place, a new reality, I want the magic to fill the spaces in between where the words float on the page, painting a vividness that lingers with you for days and weeks. I want a love to be so true and real that you can imagine no two people more right for each other and it’s worth all the work it takes to get them to realize it too.
Maybe this is why I am always so disappointed in my own work. It seems so dull and lifeless on the page, filled not with magic between the words, but a dull white space like puffs of air suspending each word before it poufs away never to be heard or seen or read with interest again.
It’s a mighty struggle, most sane people I imagine would have long since moved on to something else, alas I do not, I keep trying, keep writing, keep reading the classics, keep imagining the world of magic just beyond the looking glass, a shimmering ghostly London fog that slips through my fingers with each stroke of the keyboard.