Victory Square is the name of the book I’ve just emailed to my editor and agent. I’ve done this four times in my life, sending a final manuscript for publication, but this time is different. Victory Square is the final volume of the series that has entirely occupied the last five years of my life, and because of this, I’m left with some mixed feelings.
Of course, I’m happy. Can’t get around that. One day in New York in late 2000, while shaving, I came up with idea for this five-book series. Though I’d already written three novels, I was still (deservedly) unpublished. I thought I had a good enough idea, but I had no reason to think anyone would publish it. But they did, and thus began what I was finally able to call, after twelve years of trying, a “career”.
No matter how much I bitch about sales or advances or PR, it’s exciting to look back and see that not only do I have a career, but I’m no longer a “newbie” writer, or somesuch. And unlike too many things in my life, I’ve actually followed through on what I said I’d do in 2000, and I’m proud of this.
Of course, I’d do things differently if I started again. I have problems with my first book, and it would’ve been nice to know, when writing that first one, what would happen in the later books, if only to allow more connections between the books. But really, I’m good with what I’ve done.
One of the overarching blessings right now is that, finally, I can wash my hands of the Cold War. I’ve written about that period because I find it immensely interesting and full of potential, but after five years, you get a little exhausted from the Marxist catchphrases and rusted Trabants and faulty heaters and breadlines. When you’re working on a series, even one as loose as mine, for years, that imaginary world becomes nearly as real as the one you live in.
And yes, I’m saying that communist society does become a drag after a while. What a surprise.
But like anything, good or bad, that you live with over the years, you grow to depend on it. There’s security when you start a book and don’t have to question the setting of your story. There’s a history already written in your previous books, and you can reach back for plenty of material—secondary characters, streets, offices, hotels and restaurants, as well as the overall ambiance, the mood. That’s real security, and now it’s gone.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that this is also my liberation. The books have kept me a velvet-lined prison, and now it’s time to break out. I’ve spent a lot of this year worrying over the “what next?” question. A spy novel, yes, but what kind? What mood?
I’ve written a novel’s worth of pages, all of which will probably be trashed, trying to find that “thing” that will hook me, and potential readers. I’ve written satirical pages ala Len Deighton, some dense pages ala Le Carre, and pages that fall somewhere in between. I’ll figure it out, but right now it’s a bit of a struggle, and it reminds me how good I’ve had it these last five years.
All that aside, it’s done. When I get the copyedited pages from the publisher, there will certainly be numerous little changes, a few I can see right now, but the truth is that I can finally take a breath. I’ve just taken about 1500 laser printed pages full of old drafts and ballpoint edits to the dumpster, and the wall behind my work area is actually visible. (Hello wall!) I’ve got a TBR stack to read through in the garden as long as the weather holds. And I’ve got some time to perhaps even leave my compound and see a bit of the world.
Yes, that’ll be nice. See what the world looks like when it’s not being run by apparatchiks and sycophants—unless, of course, it still is.
(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)