How I Came to Write this Book, K. A. Laity
Kit Marlowe, Tease Publishing, Dec 2010, ISBN 9781607671275, $5.99
In 2002, I moved to Houston, Texas with my then husband. I hadn't quite got around to finishing my dissertation, but I had finished a novel, which came out the following year months prior to my dissertation defence. Nonetheless I had managed to get that pearl of academic ambitions, a tenure-track job in my field, as had my husband. Reason to celebrate, surely. People told us, "You can never leave these jobs. Lightning will not strike twice."
My apologies to those who love Texas, but we hated it with a passion. First there was the humidity. I thought 100% humidity meant it was raining, but it just means you wish you would die. The whole of Houston seems to be paved from one end to the other, the better to facilitate the flooding that happens every time it rains, let alone in hurricanes. Enron, far from being an anomaly, is just "the way we do things here" I was told. In no time I had my fill of Texas chauvinism: apparently they invented everything first, then made it bigger and better than everyone else. I've never seen anyone with a Connecticut tattoo.
In all fairness, I must admit the food was good, so was the theatre and opera. We made some terrific friends, too.
But we were miserable. If you've taught a 4/4 job, you know what it's like to prep for four classes of 20-35 students every semester, grade all their assignments, hold office hours and then participate in all the administrative duties required of faculty members, especially junior faculty who need to impress if they are to be kept on (e.g. committee meetings, department meetings, lit journal, interdisciplinary groups, College Bowl).
Now multiply that by at least another 10% for the junior faculty member who wants to fill her CV with superb work so she can get a better job in a better location (cf. the Red Queen's conversation with Alice). People always ask me, "How do you get so much writing done?" Houston was my boot camp. I focused on the goal of getting out, but I feared that I would not be able to also keep up with my fiction writing, so after starting a blog in 2004, I also started another blog as a serial novel to amuse myself.
Initially it had no name. The first line of the novel hearkens back to a running joke from grad school. I moved to eastern Connecticut AKA "the Quiet Corner" from Boston, which became our getaway-from-grad-school destination. My friends and I used to compose a faux 18th century epistolary novel on the 90 minute drive, complete with an elaborate slate of characters including the stable hand, Dick Spiggot, who did make it into the novel, too.
The rest of the story unfurled in entirely unplanned ways at the pace of about 500 words a week, every Sunday. As Octavia Butler teaches, persistence is the key to completing a writing project. Almost painlessly I persisted: occasionally I missed a week and offered some outlandish excuse like brain fever or kidnapping by pirates or highwaymen for the absence, but mostly it crept along with the only aim amusing myself and the initially small group of folks who followed the silly and sometimes surrealist Gothic adventures of Alice and Lizzie. I ran a contest to name the story and had some terrific entries. When TextNovel launched, I started posting episodes there as well.
By the time I'd got a new job, moved to New York and published a short story collection (so much for not writing fiction), I realised I had a novel's worth of material—a rather substantial novel's worth of material (100K). I knew it was a bit off-kilter for traditional genres, but my pal Stella Price, artist and writer, urged me to submit it to her publisher. Tease Publishing accepted it almost immediately. I had a fabulous cover designed by Stella before I got the first round of edits from Tease, which helped me start the publicity process. The nom de plume started as a joke, but now I'm rather fond of it. I even made a book trailer for Kit.
So, I recommend the lazy way to write a novel, as long as you have the patience. On the other hand, I have written a novel in ten weeks, so it can be done. I've also begun a new serial, Airships & Alchemy, that's likely to be just as silly as The Mangrove Legacy. I seem to like that sort of thing. And I still have way too many things going on all the time despite getting tenure this past year, because I have ambitions beyond academia. Audaces fortuna iuvat.
Kate is the author of Pelzmantel (Immanion Press, 2010) & Unikirja (Aino Press, 2009), a collection of short stories based on the Kalevala, Kanteletar, and other Finnish myths and legends, for which she won the 2005 Eureka Short Story Fellowship and a 2006 Finlandia Foundation grant, as well as other stories and essays