Saying goodbye to the nineteen-eighties…

I always forget the sinking anti-climax that inevitably follows the end of writing a novel, until there I am, suddenly back in it, temporarily submerged and resting on the quiet ocean floor beneath the surging waters of creativity. All the edits are done, the preparation for publication is completed… there’s nothing left to say… and an echoing silence from my central characters as they disappear back into the darkness of infinite possibility, their stories told for now. Why such emptiness left in their wake? It’s not as though I’ve killed them off. Cordelia, Beatrice and Rosalind were still very much alive as I finished the last chapter, and will emerge again in Book Three of the Written in Water trilogy.

Perhaps it’s because at the point I left them, 1990 had already heralded the beginning of a new era, and the end of the Thatcher years. Optimism had once again reared its often naïve head, just as it had in the nineteen-sixties. The three women in the trilogy were by then already two years into their forties, and more sure of themselves and what they wanted from life. I remember being that age. I remember my own optimism. It was in many ways the best time of my life – a time when I made different choices and began to understand the meaning of true empowerment. But that necessitated letting go not just of the 1980’s, but everything that had gone along with them for me. Apart from my children, that is – although they were each fast moving towards their own adulthood and my relationship with them adapted accordingly.

The thirty years since then have gone far too fast. Perhaps as far as my characters are concerned, I am already feeling a backwards flowing grief for my final farewell with them at the end of the third book of the trilogy. I know something of the journey they will each make during those years – not every detail, because there are always unexpected diversions and surprises as their stories reveal themselves to me. But enough to know that each of them, like me, will have difficult choices to make at times, regrets and challenges to balance the unexpected joys. Growing up is never easy. Growing old can only be staved off by denial for so long.

When I embarked on this trilogy it was similar to whenever I’ve begun a love affair. I had no idea just how deeply I would fall in love with them, or how much they would get under my skin, these girls who became women and whose destiny is to grow old along with me. Just as it has been with my children, I can’t choose one of them to be my favourite. Sometimes I become more involved with one, but then another one will move into the foreground, and so they become my focus. I am gripped by the nuances of their emotions and where their choices lead them. Cordelia, Beatrice and Rosalind each have such different histories and personalities, and are all so exquisitely flawed (just like everyone with whom I’ve ever fallen in love, and, of course, me.)

A conundrum that fascinates me is whether we are as free as we like to believe, or whether our strengths, weaknesses and preferences are set in a mould by our genes, early childhood experiences and cultural background. Is that mould plastic enough to be reshaped or broken by later experiences in life, or are we doomed to go on repeating mistakes from a perspective that we adopted in a time even before memory, and mostly out of our awareness? And for that matter, can our later experiences heal the damage we experienced when we were too young to escape the consequences? When I meet my characters at the start of writing a novel, these are the questions that I ask, and I come to know far more about their histories than ever reaches the page, because hidden there are the clues that go on informing their decisions. I don’t believe we are entirely doomed. I couldn’t have worked all those years as a psychotherapist if I did. There are always opportunities for reparation, for healing, for coming up for air and taking a broader view. I always hope my characters will find them.

The lives of Cordelia, Beatrice and Rosalind are still work in progress – just as it is for all of us. I hope you become as intrigued as I am to discover what happens to them next…

You can find Exits and Entrances (Book One of Written in Water) on Amazon in both kindle and paperback format at Exits and Entrances and Better Strangers (Book Two of Written in Water) on Amazon at Better Strangers

Strange Eventful History (Book Three) will be published in 2020.

Read more about all my books on my website: Lesley Hayes

And follow my blog on The Lesley Hayes Blog

6 thoughts on “Saying goodbye to the nineteen-eighties…”

  1. Great piece Lesley. Loved the first book and hoping to read book II on my gold in a couple of weeks.. I think in relation to being boulder if not trapped by the past it depends on the individual. I am indelibly marked by my past but have changed dramatically throughout my life refusing to be constrained by what life’s peculiar way of challenging us. I know many who cannot break free and are locked in a terrible cycle of living life unable to move or change. As for how you feel about your characters.. that’s always a wrench.. again. Great piece ☘️🎈

  2. I feel as if I’ve abandoned the characters I’ve created and haven’t revisited them for some time. I wonder what they’re up to now? I haven’t read any of this series, although I may have it on my Kindle. The big A will let me know. Anyway … you’ve whet my appetite. I just wish I could devote more time to reading. Lately, I seem to fall asleep as soon as I read a few pages. How true it is that we keep on changing and adapting to new life situations. I feel it is particularly true these past few years. No, we are not all doomed.

    Or as Anne Shirley said, “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

  3. I’m always fascinated by the insightful look at the person behind the words, Lesley, and you have proved once again that it can be as interesting as the creative work the author produces.
    My years as an author only started relatively recently (12 years ago), but I clearly remember the sensation you have described so well in your opening ‘the sinking anti-climax …’ having finished a novel. It is our life, our reason for being until it is available.
    I do believe that in reality, whatever life throws at us, it’s our duty to assess our new situation and deal with it–should it mean changing ourselves or our outlook in adapting. It’s what the animal kingdom does–evolution didn’t stop with mobile phones.
    I have thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Written in Water’ tales so far and look forward to the conclusion. 🙂
    A great article.

  4. I believe we do indeed reshape the moulds we live in. Mine constantly morphs with each experience, good and bad. A great write up!

  5. “Just as it has been with my children, I can’t choose one of them to be my favourite.” – so very true, Lesley —

    Even some of my characters in my short stories act that way, lol! To make it worse, so do some of the images I like to paint!

    There may way be Some irreparable damages from the start, but even flowers, so matter how stunted in whatever soil, will seek out the light. I noticed your characters always seemed to too 😊

  6. I have today finished and posted reviews for the book I was reading. It didn’t deserve to be delayed, it’s a 5-star thriller, but this is the book I have been waiting for since I read Exits and Entrances.

    Lesley, I also know how you feel – in limbo, even with book 3 plotted. I’m trying an experiment – two books on the go at the same time – and the casts of both are driving me insane.

    Thank you for a fascinating glimpse “behind the scenes”.

Comments are closed.