Timing: Giving Birth To a Novel

I’ve completed another novel. It didn’t come fully formed like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. I’ve been working on parts of it for years, but in the past few months it has solidified and taken its final shape. As is often the case for me, it took awhile for the main character’s voice to fully emerge. It’s a little like a partial birth, if there is such a thing. Legs and arms came first. Eventually the rest followed.

The central character Tillie is the younger version of the main actor in Freefall, a work that I hope to see published soon. Freefall’s Tillie is 60 with the heart of someone much younger. Like her older self, the young Tillie is quirky and precocious and loves to wander. The working title for the new novel is Tillie: Portrait of a Canadian Girl in Training. For those who don’t know about the organization, Canadian Girls in Training actually exists, and I joined it for a while when I was young.

Of course, attending meetings was an excuse to get out of the house at night. But the real training happened on my way to and from the church where we gathered. We smoked all the way there and back. We played white rabbit, a “game” that involved ringing doorbells over and over and then disappearing. We raided gardens. And we also visited the local park where the boys were hanging out. I learned many useful things during those excursions.

And I’ve learned a lot from writing this novel. It can take years for a character and a story to emerge. It’s not unlike raising a child: there are developmental stages, and each one is important. So though at times I despaired that the work would ever cohere, it did. And it was worth waiting for.

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