Field notes from an imaginary universe

I’ve been asked more times than I can count to describe what genre I write in.  Sometimes I have a go at answering.  ‘I don’t know,’ I say, ‘my book’s about a girl who’s turning into glass.’  The truth is, though, as I discovered on Friday when I finished writing my new novel, that it’s travel writing.  The only difference is that the place I went to doesn’t actually exist.  I stayed there for a few years and met many of the people who live and love there, but they don’t exist either.  Still, I had an interesting time with them.  A few of them turned out to be really horrible, but the rest were good-natured, even if they sometimes had a peculiar way of showing it.

The point is that finishing a novel feels like coming back from a long trip overseas.  It’s a trip from which you’re pleased to have returned, because of the sense of completion it lends to the experience, but also slightly disappointed to be back from, since the act of returning makes the being there feel so distant.  And will anyone believe in or even care to hear about the things that you did?  Only time will tell.

There is some final editing left to do, but that’s just the preparation of the field notes.  The visit is over and I won’t go back.  What a strange and irrational act of the imagination.  Which, of course, is the whole joy and point of it.

The Man who Rained will be on the bookshelves some time this winter.  In the meantime here’s a sort of teaser, from my sketchbook.


Comments 2

  1. Sarah wrote:

    What genre have other people described your book as? To those I’ve recommended it to, I think I might have called it magical realism, or simply a fairytale, but I’m sure others have come up with more interesting descriptions…

    I’m intrigued by that new title.

    Posted 16 May 2011 at 5:17 pm
  2. Ali wrote:

    Hey Sarah,

    I normally use those two as well, although The Girl with Glass Feet is not strictly a fairy tale, since it’s far too long, and a lot of people seem to take exception to magical realism as a concept. Genre is a messy business and I wish we could forget the whole conundrum, but I suppose it would make for equally messy bookshops. I think what is certain, but probably more interesting to me as a writer than to readers with limited time to locate the kind of books they wish to read, is that to an author their own novel is far more like a piece of non-fiction. I have to convince myself of the reality of the characters and landscapes I write about, whereupon I find it impossible to conceive that I was the one who invented them, and have to attempt to treat them as if they were real people and places that the reader might somehow visit to check against my description.

    I hope you will like The Man who Rained. I can’t wait to share more about it here.

    Posted 19 May 2011 at 5:08 pm