Two days ago I hit send on the final edits of Future Past. We’re done now, publication’s slated for this May, 2013. I’m soliciting blurbs for the cover, and drawing a few deep breaths. What a fascinating process. I’ve known a lot of great editors — been really lucky in my experience, but I feel as though this was the best yet. Not because my prose was perfect and remained untouched by my admiring editor… far from it. Oh my word, you should have seen the scads of edits suggested!
I love my character Ash Tarberrn. He’s one of my all time favorite characters, and like many of them he arrived in a dream. I stood in his skin in a terrifying blank room full of yellow light with blue shadows, and felt his feelings and his actions as he took the arm of his best volunteer and inoculated the naked man with a deadly virus before sending that man forth to eliminate the Free World’s enemies.
Maybe not an endearing sort of fellow, you might think. He didn’t like himself either, and it was the raw and damaged parts of his character that caught me up in his life. I saw the world we are creating now by our actions, the floating cities of our future earth through his eyes, heard his thoughts as he remembered the poetry he read describing the mighty grandeur of a blue sea, but looked out upon an ocean tamed with rubbish and pollution nearly to the point of allowing him to walk like Christ himself upon it. He had a long journey to make, and I wanted to know if he could.
I didn’t plan on writing more than one story about Ash, but he kept coming back to visit. Some days I felt as though if I turned around fast enough in my dark study, I might catch a glimpse of him sitting quiet in the Harvard chair in the corner, waiting for me to have time to write his next tale. He showed up in the shadows of another novel, haunting his grandchild. I’m now editing another of his stories, and I know there is at least one more, with something dreadful in it, though I haven’t dreamed the truth yet. But I have two complete manuscripts thanks to him, all set in my Future Earth.
What is fascinating to me, and heartening beyond any gift, is that Kim Coughlan,(www.coghlanwriting.com) the editor I received from Eternal Press, met Ash and understood him. Ash is difficult, he has a negative voice. It’s always easier for him to say what a thing is not rather than what it is, and while I tried to turn things around to make him more readable, he rode roughshod over my druthers again and again. Kim took the manuscript, shook out the indirections and set us on a clear path to our story. All of this without violating Ash’s voice, and let me tell you that was a brilliant bit of work.
So if you meet with an editor who can remain unruffled by your writerly peculiarities, remote from her private prejudices, cool in judgement but invested in your desires, who can sense the right times to hold back and the right times to interfere, it’s time to quote Hamlet.
Kim, I salute you!