One of the best (and hardest) things about being an author is the constant learning curve. Each time I write a book, I learn not only new stuff about the setting and the background, but also about writing itself.
I have always been a writer. I was that kid who wrote reams on dot-matrix printer paper when I was seven (true story). When I first started to write, that luckily gave me a boost of confidence that actually producing words was not going to be the challenge for me (and I know lots of great writers who learned how to do this, too, so it’s not something you intrinsically have and it certainly can be learned). But there is so much more to writing novels than producing words, and that has been a learning journey for me. I never have any idea what the next lesson will be.
I recently had a lightbulb moment about my writing and it was almost surreal. You’d think I write the stuff I write on purpose, but actually I still do it mostly instinctively (some things I’m starting to do consciously, but it’s a slow process and I get scared I’ll mess with my instincts if I’m too purposeful). The result is complex and I don’t always understand exactly why I made certain decisions during the writing process.
This method certainly allows for some flashes of inspiration that I’m very proud of, but it also opens me up to risks I don’t realise I’m taking. And then I have moments like yesterday, where I suddenly understand why I follow some story strands or create some characters.
I love irony (not being at all ironic here haha).
If I think back to the character of Gordon in My Christmas Number One, he was my first heavily ironic character, but I had no idea that was why I liked him so much (despite him being a bit of a you-know-what). It also explains why readers reacted so wildly differently to him, because irony is quite a divisive form of humour. Some people love it and others really don’t. This is an important thing for me to know.
Why did I learn this now? Because a Match Made in Venice is my most ironic book, yet. I can’t believe I didn’t consciously realise it when I was writing. The characters are not who you expect and they’re not telling the story they think they are telling. I think I just couldn’t help it, writing about one of the most visited cities in the world. I can’t just write a glowing portrait of a city which is admittedly amazing. I had to make ironic observations about the crowds, about the cheesiness.
But at its heart, there is an earnest love story in there, too, and a deep appreciation for the people who inherited the history and uniqueness of the city itself. This is me. This is my writing. It helps me understand a lot about my readers and potential readers. And not everyone has to appreciate it, but I hope enough people will that I can keep bringing books out.