Alexander the Great
It's not always easy to go back to a place you left a long time ago because sometimes, when you do, you find things just aren't the same as you remembered and it is often a disappointment. On the other hand, 'going home again' can also resurrect a lot of nostalgic feelings, good ones as well as perhaps some unhappy memories. When I returned to my little mountain village in Evvia, Greece, two summers ago I was very upset to find it so deserted, so changed! Houses were shuttered. People were gone. Probably a lot of the elders had passed away. It was an eerie experience wandering through that tiny place where I'd spent so much time -- my Garden of Eden. I thought of returning last year but somehow couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd rather be left with the memories of when I lived there part time and frolicked on the mountainside with the shepherd and my village friends.
This week I returned to Alexander's world, the world I had created in my novel "Shadow of the Lion". I'd finished writing it at the end of 2010 after many years of labour including reams of research, traveling to sites in Greece and Turkey, and spending some of that time living in Greece while I researched and wrote. It seemed to take forever to write the novel. People kept questioning me why it wasn't finished yet. Of course, I'd had other projects that took up my time as well as during the first couple of years I worked full time. But finally, it was finished, and I had said goodbye to my old friends in Alexander's world.
It's a funny thing when you get to 'the end' of a novel. It still hasn't really sunk in, partly because I had written the ending almost from the beginning, and as it was based on a historical time-line I knew how the story would unfold. But it was my imagination and creative license that made the characters come alive, and having visited many of the places that set the scenes in the story, I was really 'living' the story. Perhaps I'm still not totally grasping that it's done. For the first week afterwards the characters kept speaking to me until I had to silence them. The writer's task is over. Next, the editor will take over.
But to celebrate I decided (as I'd planned for some years) to have a 'wrap' party. And that is coming up this weekend. A celebration of the completion of the writing. So I had to make a visit to Alexander's world again to choose what segments I would read to my guests as they have all been waiting to hear the story.
The Ishtar Gate, Babylon
It was interesting going back to read the early part of the novel that was written so long ago. Scary, in a way, because your writing in the beginning may not be as good as the more recent writing. However I was delightfully surprised to find that I was reading almost as a first-time reader would. It had been written long enough ago that most of it was really 'fresh' to me. And I some of it, as I read, even brought tears to my eyes!
I decided to begin my reading for the reception at my home with the very opening part of the novel, which is set in Babylon at the time of Alexander's death, because this sets the scene and indicates the conflict. Later, for the short reading I intend to do at the taverna party, I'll read some smaller parts describing the women in the story. It took me a couple of days to choose which parts to read and to make sure they weren't too long. I have read bits of Shadow in the past at various readings so I'm used to hearing it aloud. In fact, when I first started writing it, I used to tape it and play it back, to hear the cadence of the prose. (This is an interesting experiment for writers to try.)
I'm getting quite excited about the wrap party. A lot of people requested invitations and it's somewhat overwhelming planning how to fit everyone in, but I'm sure it will work out just fine. And it is certainly something to celebrate!
Now I'm ready to start the final edits, which I intend to work on next month. And when the book is finally marketed and published, there will be another grand party: a 'launch' party!