Separation Anxiety

coat of armsI’m suffering from separation anxiety.

No, my wife hasn’t left me, and empty-nest syndrome hasn’t kicked in, though my three sons have gone. The loved ones who are now far away have names like Harald, Selia, Gwyn, Gudrun, and Cnute. Then there is Yngvarr, Ravya, Xaviero, and Floriano. All are precious to my grieving heart, for they are all my creations. I finished my historical novel, Blood Moon Road, a month ago. My main characters headed home to northern Europe and left me in Italy, spinning my eleventh century cart wheels.

Not having been left as a babe in a basket on the steps of St. Agatha’s, abandonment is a new experience. When the novel first began to take shape, I awoke one morning to find that Harald Cnuteson, my protagonist, was making decisions for himself–drinking too much ale and pursuing a beautiful woman. I reacted to his Pinocchio-like transformation by running about the room crying, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” (my apologies to Victor Frankenstein).

When I calmed at last and sat down at my computer, I discovered that I was unable to keep my Anglo-Danish hero from continually running headlong into danger (I refuse to say “in harm’s way”). What proceeded was a half-year chronicling the trials and tribs of myfriend and his companions as we explored Europe in the Middle Ages.

The great British novelist Graham Greene said, “The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave him to it.” I suppose that is the most exhilarating aspect of the writing process. Though you are the prime mover in your book’s universe, developing characters act in keeping with the truth of themselves. For the writer–at least for this writer–it is the experience of a reader losing him/her self in a great book, taken to the next level.

Years ago, I set out to learn the craft of acting. I advanced far enough to get paid a pittance for my work, and managed to learn a few things in the process. I learned–or used the concept–that to become a character you had to reach down deep to find where that character’s anger or bitterness or joy lay either realized or in potentiality inside you. From that place you spoke and moved and reacted.

Creating characters on the page is much the same. They all exist within your psyche, layered in life experience. I don’t recall who said that all characters are but different reflections of yourself, but I wouldn’t disagree. Even the evil that befalls you becomes a part of you.

I have always enjoyed flawed but heroic characters, for when they soar, so do I, whether as reader or writer. And creating a love interest for my hero is to put the ideal of perfect union within my own reach. So do I live life vicariously through my characters? Shit, ya.

My friend, Mary, the wise-woman and seer-ess of The Chilliwack Writers Group, told me she had been advised by a prof to expect sadness and a sense of loss to follow the completion of a major writing project. So what I am feeling is normal. I guess I’ll have to toss ideas around for a sequel and try to track down my lost characters. Blog writing is okay. But I do miss the swords.

7 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety”

  1. Excellent blog, Garth. And I’m looking forward to reading more of your new endeavour. Your grief is understandable, but I believe it will be short-lived as I trust that these characters will once again spring to life in a sequel. I expect that “Blood Moon Road” will become a best seller. It’s totally captivating and beautifully written. I’m looking forward to it’s off-spring.

  2. Wow Garth! Loved this insightful post. You have a real gift for writing and I’d love to read your novel…any plans to publish it?

  3. Garth, if your book is written as well as your blog I’m sure it will be a best seller! Well done my friend – it’s VERY exciting to launch out on a new adventure. I look forward to reading your adventure.

  4. Historical Novels, my favourite, in the Middle Ages in Europe, what could be more perfect….
    So nice to know that you are realizing one of your dreams Garth, I knew there was a lot more to you than meets the eye.
    Really looking forward to reading “Blood Moon Road” are you published yet? When is the signing event?
    Good Luck with all this, see you Wednesday,
    Jane

  5. I think it was Christine Kathryn Rusch that described what you are feeling to me as “post-novel ennui.” All I can tell you is by the time you are on the third or fourth novel of the same series, being paid to write to deadline, that feeling goes away and is quickly replaced by relief!

    Michael (Garth’s brother from another mother in the Chilliwack Writers’ Group–we only have two men).

  6. Congrats on you website, Sir Garth. As you know, I think your novel is a winner. In addition to what my prof. said about the sense of loss after writing, I can say that completing a major writing project is the closest thing to giving birth. In fact, it is giving birth. Just wait until your characters leave home for good — empty nest for real. So bring’em back. Thanks for your kind words, too. Curtseys and exits left.

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