Friday, 1 August 2014

In My Bottom Drawer (1) - Catriona Troth

In My Bottom Drawer (1)

All writers have a 'first' novel buried deep in a drawer somewhere, many that will never see the light of day, let alone face the publishing world. Some may be hidden gems, many will be steaming piles of excrement, but facing up to your humble beginnings can be a revitalising experience for a writer.

In a series of articles, Triskele authors bravely discuss the contents of their bottom drawers.

We start with author of Gift of the Raven and Ghost Town, Catriona Troth.

"The first time a sat down to write an entire novel, I was a post-graduate student. I was, of course, supposed to be doing something completely different, but as a colleague of mine memorably announced one morning, “the frontiers of science put up barbed wire last night.” I was bored, frustrated, and spending more time in the literature section of the university library than the maths and engineering section where I belonged.

The book I set out to write – first on my brand-new Olivetti typewriter and later on my state-of-the-art Amstrad PCW – was basically a love triangle. But it had ideas way above its station. The title, The Broad Continent, was taken from a Virginia Woolf quotation - “Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword...” I was convinced I was writing a feminist masterpiece, on par with the Virago Modern Classics I devoured by the sackload.

By rights, the whole thing should have been consigned to history along with the PCW. But my techy husband found a way of converting the files, so I still have a copy of it on my computer. When I look at it now, it screams pretentiousness, naivety about human nature, and amateurish writing. As for the dialogue – let’s just say I was channelling my beloved Dorothy L Sayers.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this early adventure into writing is what it tells me about how the publishing industry has changed. This overblown and faintly ridiculous manuscript received (among other things) a full reading from an editor at Macmillan who, though he rejected it (thank God), wrote a long and detailed response that I still have tucked away in a file somewhere. Ah – those were the days!"

No comments:

Post a Comment