Friday, 9 October 2015

How Héloïse was Sculpted

by Liza Perrat

At the beginning of this summer, I gleefully typed “The End”, and breathed a sigh of relief. After almost two years, my third book––Blood Rose Angel––and the last in the French trilogy, The Bone Angel Series was finished. I began to visualise my 14th century heroine, Midwife Héloïse, on the cover, sitting harmoniously beside her kinswomen, Victoire of Spirit of Lost Angels and Céleste of Wolfsangel. I happily sent it off to the Beta readers––my Triskele colleagues––and looked forward to a well-earned Kindle and Cocktail break lazing around the pool during the balmy August days.

Part of our Triskele Books Author Collective collaboration involves critiquing and editing each Triskele novel, to ensure all books reach the highest possible standard for publication. I’ve been with these gals since 2009, when we began reading each other’s work via an online writing group, so we know each other well enough to be absolutely truthful, but I was certain there would just be a few niggles to fix.

Then the comments began to trickle in.

‘ … some interesting writing … clearly researched medieval midwifery … remedies and side effects of the plague were very vivid, BUT ….’

‘ … no character arc … no story arc.’

‘What went wrong?’

‘Read this dialogue out loud; can you really think it sounds right?’

‘ … characters have no depth or emotion.’

‘ … unclear why you have such a big problem here … not at all like your usual style.’

‘ … doesn't feel like the Perrat writing I know and love ....’

‘More like a domestic fantasy than a believable world.’

‘ … research smothers the story.’

‘ … concentrated so hard on getting the historical facts right, you forgot about STORY.’

There were more comments, many more, but you get the idea. And, once they were all laid bare before me, the cold and painful truth hit me like my stonemason hero’s mallet: my French medieval masterpiece was a smouldering merde-infested midden.

I am not a writer … I will never be a writer. How ever did I write two novels; books that have received awards and glowing reviews? Flukes, surely!

After I had plunged all those nasty little Triskele chicks into a cauldron of boiling, plague-infested oil, and seriously considered giving up this writing malarkey, they suggested a “Héloïse brainstorming session”, at our upcoming birthday celebration in Porto.

‘You do the food, we’ll bring Port and cakes.’ Which sounded like a good deal to me.

Well, it’s amazing what brains fuelled on that tasty pink Port and sugar-laden cake can storm up. At the end of the evening, my ears were buzzing, my brain spinning with Port ... er, dramatic plotlines, beguiling character and story arcs, my hand aching from scribbling ten pages of notes.

‘And send us the rewrite in chunks,’ dear colleagues said, ‘to save another big disappointment at the end.’

If I wanted to get Blood Rose Angel published before our annual Triskele Books November launch, there would be very little reading or lying around this summer. So I cancelled life for seven weeks, put fingers to keyboard and bum in seat.

The chunks started trickling back with glowing comments, helpful suggestions, but most of all, encouragement to keep plugging away.

‘Yes, you’ve got it now!

‘Excellent … you’re on a roll!’

Motivated and cheered at every step by the team’s unflagging support, I was reminded of what an author collaboration is all about, and why we set up Triskele Books in the first place: Going it alone, together.

Writing and self-publishing a book is a hard slog on your own, but with the help of a team whose collective savoir-faire is the sum of each individual’s expertise, it becomes more a communal, and enjoyable, task. Furthermore, as each Triskele publication is a reflection on our own work, it’s in all our interests to bring each book to the highest possible standard.

Thanks to my colleagues, and to the many other helpful Beta readers, Blood Rose Angel has now gone off to the proofreader. And as I enjoy what’s left of the summery evenings around the pool, I raise my glass of pink Port to Team Triskele!!

Blood Rose Angel, along with Triskele Books’ other 2015 publications: Human Rites by JJ Marsh, The Better of Two Men by JD Smith and False Lights by Gillian Hamer will be launched at Triskele Books’ annual launch party on November 28th in London.

Pre-order Blood Rose Angel:

No comments:

Post a Comment