Monday, April 02, 2007

Getting back on track

Barbara here. I've just returned from ten beautiful days in Costa Rica, half of them spent hiking, exploring and zipping through the canopy of the cloud forest in Monteverde, and the other half spent playing in the surf, reading in a hammock, and enjoying pina coladas near the Pacific beach village of MonteZuma. I brought a notebook with me so that I could begin the new novel that's been percolating in my head, but I did not even get it out of the suitcase. That's how relaxed I was. Instead I read, which is a luxury in itself for me.

First I read David Hewson's The Sacred Cut, which is the second of his Nic Costa books I've read. He writes intelligent, sophisticated mysteries set in contemporary Rome, and he brings the city alive with rich historical detail. It's great fun to visit Rome through one of his books and this one was highly enjoyable. An interesting set of characters, a complex puzzle, and like all of David's books, social and moral dilemmas to explore. Since I myself had written about the traumatic aftereffects of war experiences on soldiers in Honour Among Men, I was very interested in the character he created and the compassion and insight he displayed. There is plenty of action, suspense and violence in this book, but it is the thoughtful insights and subtle characters that stick with you. Like many male writers, he has less success creating realistic, vivid female characters, but I suspect the reverse is true for female writers.

After Hewson, I switched gears and read Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, which recently beat out Margaret Atwood and other literary Goliaths for Canada's richest literary prize, the Giller Award. It's a series of linked short stories, some of which are brilliant and touching, others disturbing. My To Be Read pile is still alarmingly high, but I've enjoyed this reading interlude.

Back home now, I have to get back to serious work. I'm doing the final re-writes on my latest Green novel, based on the feedback of my police officer who read the manuscript while I was away and who tells me when I've got the procedure wrong, and in the next day or two I shall send it off to the publisher. After that I'll turn my attention to that blank page that awaits me. I know the reason it's still blank; I have an opening scene in my head, but I still don't know what I want to say, what moral or personal landscape I want the explore with the story, so I feel as if I'm just floating. That's a common feeling for me at the very start of a book, when I'm contemplating those vast empty 300 pages ahead of me. I know the only cure is starting Scene One.

Which is why I'm here writing this blog instead.

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