#WritersWednesday: Helga holds the #Pen

Temptation My name is Helga, sometimes spelt “Elga”, for reasons that I leave to the Reader to discover. I am a medical doctor, exactly a specialist in mental health, and one of the most ambiguous characters in this strange piece of writing titled “The Page”.

There, I appear in turn as an alien creature, leading a sinister plot to conquer the world, or at least, this world, or, as a shadowy member of a military clique, involved in the setting up of a world government, possibly to the service of the aliens, and then, again, as myself. The story line has confused me more than once, I admit, being, just as much as my friend Sarah, a rational being. Unsurprisingly the two lost characters in the story are… the author and his hero, old Julian Dutoît, married to Sarah, poor soul (Sarah, not Julian, who deserves some good kicks up his a**e).

Of course I should not talk like this about one of my clients. For my sins, professionally, I look after Julian, more for love of his beautiful wife than for any particular sympathy for Julian himself, whom I find an insufferable fool. I have long wondered if Julian is not the writer’s perfect twin, as paranoid and obsessed the one as the other. Those typical male characters have been lucky to find good women to look after their sorry little minds. And yet they speculate, occasionally flirt with ghosts, get drunk, misbehave in ways another age would have found odious to men and gods.

We have to put up with them because their fertile imaginations are, from time to time, entertaining, to a point. I admire Sarah’s patience with her husband, and her ability to forgive his worse infidelities. Mind you, Sarah’s a free spirit, and from my point of view a marvellous friend, and more. I have toyed with the idea to suggest to the writer, as I occasionally do, to kill his hero. I have decided against it, not for fear of failure, but to spare Sarah, as I do not want to hurt someone I adore.

Now you know.

Image: “Temptation”, Alte Gallerie, Berlin (photo: Honoré Dupuis)

#FiveSentenceFiction: Moon

1Q84 Aomame lifted her sight to the skies above: the crescent Moon started appearing behind the clouds, a silver ghost emerging from another world.

Tengo thought his lover had turned into a hopeless romantic, but he also felt the pull.

Soon the second Moon would appear, to confirm they had crossed the frontier between reality and their dreams.

A surge of memories invaded their souls, and slowly the smaller Moon appeared, shrouded with silver mist.

“You see, my love,” said Aomame in a whisper, “Anytime we are about to die, she appears, she’s our destiny…”

Inspired by Haruki Murakami’s immortal novel: 1Q84.

#WritersWednesday ~ Melissa on Readers and Shadows

It seems befitting, on Writers’ Wednesday, to make space for one of our beloved characters, one of the “little ones”, to express herself. Today, we welcome Melissa.

Simple Portrait I am grateful to the author for making me alive, again. Maybe I sense that, for him, it is a way to give justice to his own memories, or maybe, I am just that: a character out of his magic box ? Who knows?  I don’t mind either way, since he gives me a chance to get closer to the one I love, will always love.

 If you read his stories – he writes about us quite often, turning our lives into a sad novel – you will know that my childhood friend, sweetheart, protégé, my beloved Julian, had some difficulties in believing I was me, I mean the Melissa he knew, had known long ago. Of course none of us remembers exactly when that was, and I have to say, I don’t think the writer is too sure about it either. Nonetheless, this is a neat little trick: having the main character, the hero, doubting the reality of the one he loves, or loved, so much.

 So, I started my new life as a ghost, or a shadow. I even frightened the dear sister, young Jane. I read – yes, I can read –  that Jane complained a bit about her treatment under our author’s pen. I don’t understand why; she has a nice, undemanding role, and he, the author, portrays her always in the most admiring terms. But then, Jane is a bit of a “prima-donna”, someone used to have her own ways. Once strutted the catwalk etc…

For me, being cast in this work is an honour. Otherwise who would bother to get me out of the deepest obscurity, of the endless night I would otherwise be confined to? For this is the simple truth: authors get us, shadows, out in the open, they let us breath, they make us almost real, in the sense that you, readers, are real. For Melissa to exist, other than perhaps as a flutter in Julian’s mind, she must be there, in front of you, reader, not naked (necessarily), but warm enough to be credible, acceptable, adopted by you.

Someone said once that writers start a book, but readers finish it. I think it applies even more to characters like me: the author sets out the main traits, the prototype, of the person who may later come to existence, but readers are the ones to turn that shape, that promise, into a “real” being. I exist, for you are reading about me, and only if. So, the author’s pen only opens possibilities, and the author’s work is never completed, it always has to wait for the reader to become more than lines on the screen, or the page. And for each reader, Melissa exists with subtle differences from another.

Thinking about this could make one dizzy: there isn’t a single Melissa, but as many as there are readers who are patient, or deluded, enough to read about her. In one recent chapter of the book, my dear Julian is walking in a park. Suddenly he sees me, walking toward him, but apparently not seeing him. He looks at me, and despairs for not being visible to me. Yet I smile looking at him. Then I disappear, and Julian finds himself elsewhere. For him I have become that elusive ghost, again, that I was at the beginning. Is Julian ill, mentally disturbed, or merely confused at the reality of Melissa? Or, is the Melissa he sees, yet another creation of imagination, perhaps incompatible with yours?

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Jane, on Respect #writing

Tiny Stories As many writers before me, I have noticed how restless some of my characters can be, from time to time. Then, they seem to resent the narrow jacket of the story, they want more from life, or, maybe, they just want to assert themselves, as independent beings, as their own persons, freed for a while from the authority of their creator.

Take Jane, for instance, Julian’s young sister. She can be very critical of the way she’s being portrayed, how her personality is stifled by “the plot”. And, of course, who am I to judge? Like parents, authors can create, but their creation is not always in agreement with their parents’ vision and aspiration. There may be rumbles in the jungle of the little people.

So, I thought I would at least attempt to give them a forum, outside of my own imagination, a place where they can express themselves the way they want, as opposed to be dictated a “role”. Whether this can be successful, for them as well as for me, will be up to their ultimate judgement.

Today, it is Jane’s turn.

“Little people”, this says it all: this is the way Honoré sees us, his creations, not as beings worthy of his respect and care, but as puppets at his disposal to move around the checkerboard of his silly stories.

Take me, for example. I am supposed to be a glamorous fashion model. What a joke! My role in his novel is one of support to his main character, my brother, the illustrious Julian. I am supposed to admire my brother, worse, to worship him, perhaps even lust for him in secret. Of course H makes me also a sometime lover of the wife, gorgeous Sarah. I am really H’s “bonne à tout faire”, literally. About my feelings, about the person I want to become, I have become, he says nothing at all.

What I am really doing in life, and why I am doing it, his readers cannot have a clue. They hear that I jet set around the place, strut my stuff on catwalks, and generally be admired, when I am not bedded by a variety of vague characters such as Julian’s ghost girlfriend, Melissa. Readers don’t know who I am really, how could they? For H, I am part of the background, popping in when he is short of ideas for the next scene. 

Can you imagine how uncomfortable it is for me to be “owned”, as it were, by such a tyrant? H is someone who can do with me what he wants, apparently. He sends me to funny places on errands for Julian. He has me participating to threesomes with some aliens from another galaxy. What is a girl to do? But there is worse.

What he writes about me is bad enough, but you should see (read?) but he does not say. Those fantasies are not all healthy, and I wish he would take some distance from his subjects, once in a while, allow us some privacy. He can explore my mind at will, or at least, he gives himself that privilege. Suddenly I feel different, distorted, as if my inner self has been modified, tampered with. Of course I resist, I want to be myself, not someone else’s puppet. A girl has her dignity, private corners of her own mind, her own thoughts and dreams. H trampled on all this, like the proverbial thugs crushing the porcelain of the Winter Palace.

I am not really “glamorous”, but unsure of myself. To tell the truth I am still searching for the real Jane, the one inside. My brother is a younger version of you-know-who, just as brutish at times. Yes I used to have something of a tender feeling for him, isn’t this usual, towards an older handsome brother? But I have my own life, not linked to his. As for Sarah, she’s a good friend, nothing more. I am not of that sort. I love men, and they love me. Thinking about it it, may be that is what makes H not so confident about me. He can be of a jealous type, the sort that would deny a woman her freedom of mind: the sort who think they know best…

Do you think I am complaining too much? Do you think characters have to allow their genitor some rights to manipulate their lives? Of course, this is creative license, up to a point. But what I ask for is some respect, for me, as a person, through his words, in his attitude toward me, and toward the others. Respect in the way I am being cast, or placed in situations that, myself, given a choice, I would not tolerate. In one word: I am no toy of his, and I want him to know.

#FiveSentenceFiction: Determination

Maria Szollosi (Maria Szollosi aka Mariska He looks at the faded picture, the more he looks, the deeper his longing.

But he knows: it was so long ago, anything could have happened to her; for all he knows, she might be gone, far away…

Far away… this is a call to his imagination, to his ability to see further, deeper, to see what mere mortals cannot.

Of course, he knows, he cannot recall her, the girl of his memory, this is beyond his power, he cannot recall her in the flesh…

But he can write the book, and tell her story, which will transform her, forever.

After the First Draft #amediting, or am I (re) #writing?

Road to the Mind The struggle to complete the mythical first draft opens the gate to another level of enjoyment: in this case I am waiting for the work undertaken by my editor – bless her keyboard – to be completed before switching seriously into 2nd draft gear. I have already done some work on the basis of her observations and corrections so far: I expect a rewrite may be on the cards. Am I afraid? Not at all, this is training. One day it will bear fruit… or not. Who knows?

The adventure started some two years ago, often stalled and restarted, must continue. Distractions, travel, friends, family, books! – all reasons why progress is slow. One interesting observation is the number of blind alleys marks left all over the place: locations of no import, even characters of total irrelevance popping out here and then. My editor must think me nuts! And of course, as any writer in training, I am!

So what is the real next step? The novel is in three parts, and this was only part 1.  A rewrite of part 1 has real advantages, for example to reset the plot on a firmer foundation, after eliminating the “red herrings”. This should lead to better writing in parts 2 and 3, shouldn’t it? Well… The trouble is that the whole enterprise would be pushed back for at least a year; and there lies the risk of losing momentum.

There is another snag: new ideas are popping up, for another book! Discipline, discipline. We have to focus, and not lose sight of the goal: writing a good first novel!

Image: “Road to the mind”, by Leppakaklifoth

 

Régine Desforges and Pauline Réage: O m’a dit

I will be posting here the whole text of Régine Desforges’ s interview of Pauline Réage, author of Histoire d’O (© 1975, 1995 Éditions Jean-Jacques Pauvert).

Régine Deforges interviews Pauline Réage in 1975, twenty one years after “Histoire d’O” was published (1954).  Régine is then forty, and in 1968 founded her own publishing house, “L’Or du Temps”, and its first erotic novel, Irène, was banned by the censors.  Pauline is sixty-eight, but her true identity as the author of O has not yet be revealed (it will be in 1994, as the following text mentions).

For the new edition of O m’a dit, in March 1995, Régine wrote this introduction.  Pauline will die three years later.

“I have with the author of Histoire d’O a relationship of infinite tenderness, made of profound affection and respect, and I know she has for me the softest of friendships.

She is now an old lady [in 1995 Pauline is eighty-eight] but I cannot see her as such. I see her rather as a lost child, as I am, in the world of adults; always capable of saying things that surprise them or shock them.  This submissive is a free and loyal being.  Even though I am not so sure that loyalty be such a great quality.  One uses it when one needs it, as one can conclude by merely looking at our politicians…  The loyalty, which one believes to owe to others, is a trap in which someone as free as Dominique Aury [Pauline’s “official” literary name]  may sometime be caught. But I love her the more for it.  Don’t we love the very weaknesses of those we cherish?

Why Dominique Aury instead of Pauline Réage? She herself lifted the veil over the identity of the author of Histoire d’O in a long interview with the New Yorker, in July 1994 [Pauline’s/Dominique’s real name was Anne Desclos but she was known in her profession as journalist and literary editor only as Dominique Aury].  There she “admits” being the author of the most erotic and troubling novel of the 50’s, which only knows a worldwide success twenty years later.

Cinema has not done justice to the book, the great film of O and her love is yet to be realised.  Perhaps it is too late?  Histoire d’O talked to us, as a disciple of Fénelon and of Madame Guyon (classical mystics of the 17th-18th century), of “abandonment in the hands of the Loved one”.  This quietism is no longer of our time.

To please me, Dominique Aury agreed we composed O m’a dit. I owe to this proof of friendship to have overcome my fear of writing; she forced me to develop some of my questions or digressions.  I obeyed her and this work appeased my anxiety. One or two years later I published my first novel Blanche et Lucie [Blanche et Lucie is the history of Régine’s two grand-mothers].  For this I am for ever indebted to her.  The following year it was Le Cahier Volé [the Stolen Notebook], in which I tried to describe what would hinder my writing for more than twenty years.  Of that fear I am not completely cured.

For a while Dominique and I thought of adding a chapter to O m’a dit. “But my child, I have told everything and I am so tired”.  I did not insist.  This book expresses the essential on the manner (the writing of) Histoire d’O was undertaken.     Perhaps today I would be more combative, more incisive, more brutal?  But already then, I wanted to protect her, and, I admit, she intimidated me still a little.  I was amazed to know her so well, she the author of a book that had so much taken hold of me, that I had read so many times with the same emotion, the same deep effect on me.  This was childish on my part.

Now, when we evoke Histoire d’O and O m’a dit, we feel that a long time has gone by, that women and men, overfed by television and films with forcefully realistic images, can no longer be moved by O.  I did a survey of twenty and thirty year-old women [Régine writes “girls” and “young women”] who have read O. All have recognised, even when they disagree with the tortures O accept, that they felt like making love when they discovered the story.  Thus the words still have the greatest strength of evocation.  As for the men, something like nostalgia of a time that preceded feminism seems to float on their eyes.  But they are wrong, one can be a feminist and take pleasure, like O, in being a sex object.  For who decided to be that object, if not her?

O m’a dit is a sincere book, where neither Pauline nor I have cheated.  It still looks like us.”

Daily Prompt: Ebb and Flow #amwriting

Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog — but three years in the future.

September 28, 2016

Sunset over the North Downs The failure of my first book did not surprise me: it was expected, and I was prepared for it. Then there was the second attempt, in a very different register, and the success of that left me speechless for weeks. I owe much to my editor and agent. I owe much to the followers of this blog who kept visiting at a time when the writer in learning was at his lowest… Of course I owe much to my readers, who have come back for more…

Above all I owe it to you: without your decision to go, to change your life, and therefore mine, it would not have happen, I would not have found enough rage in me to write that second novel, to write in a way that had such appeal to people. But now I am wondering. The book of life and happiness failed, the book of despair, betrayal, death and desolation succeeded.

What should I conclude?

Hectic weeks in perspective… #amediting

Photographed by Frode & Marcus for Smug Magazine #6 Spring/Summer 2013. Well, my friend Tara is soon starting work on The Page book 1… In the meantime I am getting ready to rewrite, at the same time as making a start on book 2. There is already a lot of material there which needs editing – of course – and sorting. The tale continues in Berlin where the four protagonists have to chose their side of the fence. It is timely that book 1 was completed – well, first draft – as the German elections got on their way. In the Summer we admired the little posters in each town or city we travelled through from the Baltic coast to Weimar and Hessen where regional elections took place on Sunday. Mrs Merkel is an expert politician, a real head of government… But there is a drama in the background: that of a successful and powerful European country attempting to develop more democracy in the midst of a serious crisis…

What comes next on this saga of mine? The plot is beginning to make sense – after 35k! for this first draft before serious editing – and the second part will see the story spiralling into a conflict between absolute love and survival. Long evenings are in front of this writer in learning!… Most of the action in book 2 is in Paris, and of course, Berlin.

Still interested to hear from beta readers! Just sayin’…