Oh dear, oh dear, I’ve neglected you all unforgiveably…..do try and forgive me though, because in my defense I was busy with the next book, which hopefully you’ll enjoy when it finally sees the light of day next March! The good news is that I sent off what I’m HOPING will be the final draft last weekend – phew. Of course it’s not the last I’ll see of it – it’ll go to the copy editor who’ll cast her beady eye over it, and in a couple of weeks it’ll come back to me with her input, at which time I’ll have to go through it again and see what she has to say, and what changes if any she’s recommending. When that’s done it’ll be sent to the proofreader (who just happens to be my brother, a freelance copywriter whom Hachette use!) and back to me again for the last time. I swear I nearly know the books off by heart by the time I’m done with them! I usually think ‘thank God that’s the last I’ll see of it’ when I’m handing it back for the final time – and then when my box of advance copies arrives a few months later I can’t wait to open it!
Really hope you like the new one – I’m quietly pleased with how it’s turned out. The challenge I set myself at the outset (I always try to make a new book a little more challenging than the one that went before) was to confine myself to just two days, two Fridays to be exact, both of them in April. I have four main characters, all connected in some way with one another, who tell the story in turn. And now that it’s all done (bar the checking as above) I’m really dying to see it on the shelves, and to see what reaction it gets. March seems like a lifetime away, but it’ll come eventually. And I know I promised ages ago to show you the cover – I had seen it and liked it, and was waiting until it was officially signed off on before going public with it – but I just heard a few days ago that it’s being totally changed – and the good thing is I really love the new one, I think it’s much stronger than the old one, so I’m a happy bunny. It’s still being tweaked, but I’ve been promised a final version VERY soon – and you’ll be the first to see it, I swear! (Well, maybe after my parents!)
By the way, in case you’re wondering what the snaps have to do with anything (and apologies for the quality – I’m a writer, not a photographer!) they’re different views of what I was looking out at from my bedroom window each day last week. I was spending the week in the wonderful writers’ and artists’ retreat that is the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan (www.tyroneguthrie.ie) where I go from time to time to get a bit of intensive writing done (and get a bit pampered too!) As ever I had a great time and was very productive – got the book finished there, which was the objective. All the rooms are gorgeous but I was lucky enough to be put into Lady Guthrie’s room, which is one of the best in my opinion, being located at the front of the house with a view of the lake. The weather was mostly good, but we got two foggy days when the lake literally disappeared! I’m a big fan of fog, though – I love the magic of it, the other-worldly feel it gives to a place. And I met a really interesting group of people, from storytellers to musicians to artists and other writers. Every week I spend in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is different, but none is ever dull…. And then of course there are the magnificent evening meals which are provided by a posse of extremely gifted local women…..it’s a real treat to go there, and I consider myself blessed to be able to.
Oh, one other thing – I’ve taken up running again. If you’ve been keeping tabs on this diary you’ll know I’m a very sporadic runner, keep stopping and starting (literally) but this time I might just last because I’ve enlisted the help of Patrick, a friend and enthusiastic runner himself who has sort of taken me under his wing. He’s making out weekly schedules for me, and I’m now on week 3, and so far so good. I’m running between 3 and 4 miles when I go out – and would you believe I’m quite liking it! I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m loving it – not yet – but I don’t dread it, which is a major step forward for me. I’m quite slow but that’s OK – it’s enough for me to get to the finish without having to stop and walk. Watch this space – apparently I’m aiming for the half marathon in the Great Limerick Run next May – help!!!!
Let me tell you a story.
In January of this year I decided I’d try to become a runner. Again. If any of you caught my piece in the Irish Daily Mail’s Saturday mag a couple of months ago, you’ll know that I have for years had a love-hate relationship with running, with the emphasis firmly on hate. I’ve tried to love it – OK, not very enthusiastically, but every so often I have attempted to reach that stage where it becomes less of a pain and more of a pleasure. I’ve imagined looking forward to a run rather than dreading it – I’d really, really love to reach that stage – but so far I haven’t managed it. Instead, I have to force myself out each time I run, and I end every session, however long or short, feeling and looking like someone on the verge of cardiac arrest. I probably just never stick with it long enough to start reaping the rewards – and still, every few months or so, I’ll find myself pulling the running shoes out of hibernation and deciding to give it one more try. And so it was that in January I signed up to run a half-marathon in May. To be precise, I signed up to do this one, scheduled for May 4:
It wouldn’t be the first half-marathon I’d run. Back in the nineties, while I was working in a London ad agency, I took part in one which was run over half the distance, with everyone going twice around the course, and I swear some runners passed me on their second round while I was still on the first. I’m fairly sure I was among the last ten to finish, if not the actual last one, but I did it. Lord knows how I stuck with the training – I have no memory of it now. Unfortunately, that was then, and this is 2014, and I am on the wrong side of my 50th birthday, and folks, I just didn’t get there this time. My training was slapdash and sporadic, and by the middle of April I realised that I was nowhere near as trained as I would need to be to complete even the 10k race that was also part of the Great Limerick Run, so I admitted defeat and lapsed back into walking.
And then I heard about this.
Did you notice the ‘walk/run’ part? That’s the bit that caught my eye. Here was something I could do, something I knew I could manage. I’d walk the 5k, and I’d be up there with the first finishers. Thank God my family hasn’t been touched by suicide – but I know in these times of challenge we’re in the minority, so I signed up in solidarity with those many, many heartbroken souls whose loved ones had seen no other way out of their darkness, and I signed up in gratitude that I wasn’t among them. On Friday night I set my alarm for 3.40am. When it went off I hauled myself out of bed, got dressed and set off, yawning, to walk the ten minutes from my house to Limerick’s Thomond Park. You wouldn’t believe the crowds of yellow t-shirted people I met along the way. All human life was there, from babies to oldies to everything in between. There were even a few dogs in yellow t-shirts. We approached the gates of Thomond Park and inched our way through, and as we did, one of the volunteer marshalls said: “runners to the left, walkers to the right’ – and do you know, there were a few seconds where I hesitated. It was only 5k; even in my untrained state, I’d surely manage it.
And then I turned right. Maybe next year.
If suicide has touched your life, you have my deep and heartfelt sympathy.
(Oh, and the walk? It was chilly and a bit damp, and very very moving. And I was among the early finishers.)