Before I get to the oldest tree, I’m going to answer one of Kate’s questions. (Thanks for asking them Kate!)
So, ‘What was the turning point in your craft?’
The answer to this involves a confession. Like many debut novelists, my first published novel is not actually my first attempt at writing. Before Mr Rosenblum’s List, I wrote a really bad novel. Not a promising novel with a few dodgy passages, but an out an out stinker. The plot sucked, (in fact, there wasn’t really a plot, it just wandered) the characterization was thin, the description self-conscious, the narrator irritating, the set-up tepid and the voice less interesting than draining bath-water. If you want a ‘how not to write a novel guide’, all you’d need to do is read my first attempt.
Only my boyfriend glimpsed this monstrosity. He was actually very nice about it but, seeing his face, I knew. I cried. I actually cried so hard that I bruised my eyelids – (didn’t know that was possible did you?) I even revised the manuscript – over a couple of years. I took breaks from it and then came back to it and revised again.
After a break of many months, during which the boyfriend and I got married, (and he became Mr S or rather I Mrs S, since I suppose, he was really Mr S all along) I read the novel again. Still crap. In truth, it was a little better. The beginning was kind of nice and my heroine less annoying. But, I thought that perhaps it might be fun to write something new. Maybe, now I had learned some stuff, the next novel wouldn’t be quite so bad.
Mr S was adamant. ‘You need to write about Dorset.’ I love Dorset, and if you could see me when I’m writing about it, I even look happy and sparkly-eyed. I of course listen to Mr S in all things, (he might object to this, even quite vociferously, but this is not his blog so ha!) and began a story set in the Blackmore Vale.
To my surprise, I realised that I had discovered a huge amount about writing through all my mistakes with the first novel. And it turned out the next book, which became Mr R, didn’t suck.
I wanted it so much that I learned to write through sheer force of will.
Now, this is the oldest tree in Dorsetshire. It looks like many trees, but that ring of beeches are shoots from the main trunk of an ancient tree that was many thousands of years old. These tree circles are shadows lingering from the old world.