Elation and Revelation

A loaded gun won’t set you free (Moby cover)

It’s rare in a writer’s life that it happens:  a moment that is so beyond coincidence it would seem you are connected with the Truly Divine.

Not to appear too slack, I thought I’d work on two novels over the summer, instead of just the one.  I plan to publish the third Fleet novel, V.Gomenzi, in October and was well on track, having already made extensive notes to get it into shape.  I realised at a particular point that the fourth Fleet novel, Commences, has scenes that run very closely to V.Gomenzi.  All four Fleet novels run in parallel, like train tracks, but sometimes those tracks veer so close that they overlap.  When bumps began to appear in the overlaps between V.Gomenzi and Commences, I decided to work on Commences as well – and to publish TWO novels in October.

Commences, however, needs a lot more work.  I wrote about it here some time ago and remember how disappointed I felt when submitting it to Authonomy (what a stupid waste of time that turned out to be.)  Quite a lot has happened since then!  I began making notes for Commences while working on V.Gomenzi and in a flash of inspiration, mentally restructured the entire novel to make it more accessible.  This week I began to Big Read and have made further notes.  Many, many notes.

The novel is still patchy and there were times when I thought how tired I was of this novel.  I’ve been working on it, off and on, for nearly two decades.  There are parts of it that have no interest for me.  Until about a third of a way when suddenly I found myself looking forward to the daily Big Read, when I couldn’t wait to sit down and get to the next few chapters.  It may be patchy, it may need work, it may need reconstruction, deconstruction, reshuffling of chapters, an entire section rewritten in the first person, a wholly recreated denouement, a whiff of a character jacked up to full main character status…….but – wow – there’s some magic here that I had forgotten.  There is power here that amazes me and I’m the bloody writer.

And then, this morning, I was wondering to myself – just as I sat down to begin my next Big Read session, armed with barley cup and every single window open to the broiling hot summer – what music goes with this novel?  Every novel I write seems to have acquired a soundtrack, music that I listen to so often during the pre- and post-writing, that it becomes part of the novel.  Oh, how about this one, I thought, randomly selecting the Heat soundtrack.  Off it went until it reached Moby’s New Dawn Fades, which I utterly love.  A loaded gun won’t set you free.  Then it was time to do some work.

The section I read today sees the formation of the most evil character in the Fleet Quintet.  There’s no mention of him in Transference, a brief glimpse of him – unacknowledged – in Flesh for Sale, and a hint of a lot more to come in V.Gomenzi.  In the fifth Fleet novel, the Huge Showdown obviously involves him, and the set-up begins here.  The six consecutive chapters in Commences that deal with this character are filled with the most unspeakable violence – though not the usual comic-book TV violence – and the most unspeakable pain and fear and disappointment and unrequited love.  Revelation comes towards the end of this section when he has a stray though:  “No, a loaded gun won’t set you free.”

It’s not the fact that I’ve pinched this line (and yes, I will change it), it’s the fact that I had already selected a soundtrack for this novel and I had forgotten it and the day I decided to find a soundtrack was the day that I found the lyric staring at me from the pages I had written exactly five years ago.

This is beyond coincidence.  This is elation.  Commences is the novel that set me free as a writer.  It just took twenty years to get it.


ps.  Okay, so this is just too fucking weird for words:  I just went and found the YouTube link for Moby (so you can listen to New Dawn Fades too) and the picture on the video IS MY SCREENSAVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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