Monday 18 July 2022

'Sixsmith' - THAT asylum novel

You're bored of it by now. 'The asylum novel' started life in 2013 as a crawling mish-mash of character visitations, all of them demanding a voice. Sounds pompous. Sorry about that. Actually, it was bloody scary. Still is.

What's more, these characters are all local to me. As a writer, the dead people you create will nag the damned life out of you, wherever they fictionally hail from. This lot though, are close - very, very close. In allowing them to die so nearby, I seem to have made it easier for them to creep into my head, to linger, to shout - and worse - to whisper. It's my own fault. 

They have expectations.

Even when I originally finished writing the novel to my satisfaction and had handed it over to a (fabulous indie) horror publisher, the characters continued to pester. When said publisher quite rightly suggested a few changes, well... Howard was indignant, Alice accepted her lot with eternal dignity, Alfred blamed everyone else, Rose wept, Jacob howled with his hounds from hell, Elizabeth hid in her tree and old Tom laid down the law. And the surgeon? The surgeon smirked, flabby lips glistening with drool in the candlelight as he sharpened his knives.

With the publisher's generous support, it still took me two long years to make the small changes. The key ones were done relatively early; they made sense but I could no longer work out the continuity. The harder I looked, the more difficult it became. 

As an aside, I blame the day job and Covid for sucking anything creative out of both me and my soul in equal measure. 'Anything' is a lazy term for which I apologise, but I have no other words with which to articulate such a void. For a long time I've been hoping the situation is only an extended, empty hiatus rather than a failure, or lost ability to write. 

Back to the novel. Finally, last month on a Sunday evening when I was super-tired and the brain cells had shut down, I decided to revisit the changes I'd made over the previous couple of years. There! The solution was obvious. Just before midnight, Sixsmith was complete. Turned out I'd been trying too hard. 

So it's done. It's finished. Elizabeth, Jacob, Howard and all are cackling in my ears, soft and loud, hurt and lonely. The wonderful (and I mean that) publisher has released the novel back to me as they have been offered some superb opportunities of their own. I wish them every success.

This all means I'm ready to send Sixsmith, 'that asylum novel' out again.

The characters are excited and terrified, as am I.

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Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.