My writer friend Jenny gave me the tough talk while I was staying on her farm last week. “You’re a literary writer, Sydney,” she said., “Look at your FB posts. They’re literary!”
I’ve been trying for some years to write commercial fiction. I read a lot of crime and thrillers. After growing up in the unpredictable, treacherous world of my family, I like revisiting a similar sort of world, lurid, ruptured by violence. The difference is that in crime fiction and thrillers, we have the one who restores order, the detective, whether a professional or an amateur thrown back on their own desperate wits. Whenever I read a crime novel, I return to the person I used to be, the child who tries to understand the chaos of our family life and bring order through comforting my inconsolable mother. At the end of each novel, I feel the satisfaction of order restored, but since it hasn’t changed the chaos of my early life, I have to go back and do it again. That, I believe, is the secret trigger of addiction – using the wrong thing to resolve a deep-rooted problem.
Also, I want to make some money. I don’t want to be rich. I just want more choices in my life. I’ll have to give up on that aim because, you see, Jenny is right.
The other thing I read is literary fiction. I love literary fiction. I love its richness, its use of language, its depth of insight, the drawing away from clichés and the safe road. I want wit (but not puns – hate puns).I want to be asked to think. I want above all aesthetic pleasure. Commercial fiction is rather short on aesthetic pleasure.
So when I came home, I returned to a novel I’ve written twice already. Whenever I write a novel, especially for the first time, ideas emerge that I turn over in my mind and finally reject. Too hard to implement them. They will change the course of the novel I’ve got in mind. But when I return to a novel and start it again, those discarded ideas come back and in sharper focus. This is what’s happening now.
The discarded idea is of a family of women. In each generation, they use money to manage their relationships with men. When they try to use something else, their relationships founder.
Now I’m back to this family, and there’s more. In each generation, a woman disappears. A man is involved in her disappearance. I won’t say more – talking about a novel while it’s launching itself can capsize it.
The fiction I love is often of the non-linear variety. Events emerge out of their chronological sequence. THE DISAPPEARING WOMEN is non-linear, with at least two time lines. I think there’ll be a receptacle POV – the one who hears the other stories.
Anne-Louise’s granddaughter has gone missing. Anne-Louise is well aware of what happens to the women in her family. (Did it happen to her?) She has been expecting it and dreading it. What does she do? she must go and find her granddaughter. She must bring her home. She must break the curse that rules her family. But how to do that?