This weekend, I sent off both the final edits to blue flame, the first in the perfect fire trilogy, and the first draft of white heat, which is the second volume. It was a joyful experience made strange by nearly eighty hours of almost continual work. I did get into bed, but could never sleep. So filled with the books had I become that I didn’t even really feel tired. I resented the time the kettle took to boil, refused to go to the loo until I could refuse no longer, walked the two dogs at a speed that left even the bouncing puppy breathless and didn’t notice that I had failed to turn up for any meal, or cook one, until my husband told me there was nothing left in the freezer. He could have been talking double dutch for all I heard. I was in thirteenth century Occitan with Raimon and Yolanda and that was where I was staying.
These are the weeks for which this writer, at any rate, longs and you never know when, or indeed if, they will come. You don’t even realise they have arrived until you’re in the midst of one. Then, with astonished relief, you find that the act of writing is no longer like hewing granite. Rather, it’s like sculpting with the finest clay. The tap tap tapping with furrowed brow and faltering fingers is over. Instead, you’re zipping along with speed and joy and, most importantly, belief. You acknowledge this only in a whisper to start with, in case the muse deserts you. But your confidence grows as normal life slides away – and you don’t care.
You may be able to understand something of the magnitude of this zany liberation when you recall that I am Mrs. Ultimate Control Freak. I mean, in a normal week, I tidy, I iron, I answer e.mails, I keep up with the news. But in one of Those Weeks, I couldn’t care less if the entire household had to leave the house starving and naked. On Saturday, I couldn’t tear myself from my laptop long enough even to draw the curtains in my meatsafe study. When some child or other came in and said ‘it’s dark and freezing in here’, I felt like Andy McDowell in the rain at the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral. ‘Oh, I hadn’t noticed’. Needless to say, having dressed in the dark with a quick stab of mascara for decency’s sake, I looked even less like her than I do usually, and the resemblance is what you might call never very marked.
But here I am, back in the land of the washing machine and cooker. Thank you, Kirsten and Jessie and Camille for your kind comments about previous blogs. It’s great to have feedback.
Have I told you before that this new trilogy is about love in a time of fanaticism? My children tell me I both repeat myself and don’t finish sentences. I can’t see the harm, myself, since …… Have I said before that this new trilogy is about love in a time of fanaticism?
The thirteenth century Occitan is under threat from powerful King Louis IX of France, he who was later designated St. Louis (although not by me). Instead of all joining together to save the lands and the culture from being subjugated, opposition was split between Cathars (a Christian sect) and the Catholics. It was a time of terror and terrorism; of turning a God of Love into a God of Hate; of the kind of implacable and bizarre logic that leads to pyres for the living. Catholic Inquisitors or Cathar Perfecti (a Cathar high priest), which was worse, really?
It’s fashionable to look on the Cathars with sympathy. After all, they were eventually hounded out and ground into the dust. But actually, when you start to delve, the Cathars were almost as bad as the Catholics. There were just fewer of them. One particular delight was their fancy for the ‘endura’ or fasting until death. This cracker was sometimes imposed on those to whom Perfecti had administered the ‘consolation’, a kind of Cathar sacrament that turned the ‘consoled’ into Perfecti too. Once you were ‘Perfect’ you must reject the world for the world was a creation of the devil. Horrible for contemporaries. Perfect (pun intended) for novelists.
Now to prepare for Christmas. One joyful week to another.