I started writing Tell Me in December 2012, and finished it in June 2013—then didn’t look at it again until July 2014… had an offer on it from Harper Collins’ Mischief (RIP, my imprint) before the end of August, but didn’t get comments on revision until, god I don’t remember, October or November 2014. And then, revisions, and reviewing the copy edit, and arguing over my cunts and pussies (long story; I’ll return to it next week), and finally, proofing the galleys, and telling the editor, “I don’t care if any of your people introduced errors into it, I. CAN’T. READ. THIS. BOOK. EVER. AGAIN!!” So that was… when? January 2015, probably. That seems about right…
Anyway, all this backstory to tell you this: A friend of mine finally got around to reading it last week, burned through it in a night (which is the best review ever, still), and then texted me, wanted to meet me for coffee. “I have so many questions!”
And I texted back, “I have no answers. Really.”
But we met for coffee anyway.
And she had questions. A whole list of them. “What did you mean when…” “Why did you do this…” “On Day 7, when you… did you think…”
And I had answers.
“I don’t know.”
I felt terrible.
I mean. I couldn’t remember. For the life of me. I wrote the thing—I’m very bad at math, but how many years is it now? Six years ago? Haven’t thought about it since. I genuinely truthfully cannot remember.
And then I thought about Philippa Gregory (the historical novelist) (she’s amazing) (I got to hear her speak last week) (I’m digressing)—and how she’s been publishing since 1987, and how she wrote The Other Boleyn Girl in 2001 and is still fielding questions about it, and how does she remember?
Or does she just make stuff up?
What about Nora Roberts, with her 225 novels? Surely, she can’t remember why she did what.
So what does she say?
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
That’s ok, right?
My friend, however, thought “It seemed like a good idea at the time was a terrible answer.”
And I really liked her, and I wanted to make her happy.
So after seven “I don’t knows” and two “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I did what I do best.
I start to imagine stories.
I told her Matt was based on a boy I had a crush on when I was 14 (when I was 14, I had a crush on two girls, and that’s another story too, but that’s a true one).
I told her Jane was who I imagined myself to be if I was a psychopath. (I quite like that; I’m going to try it again.)
I told JP was modeled on the CEO of… “I’d better not tell you the name of the company…” and yes, he was just like that, don’t you pity his poor fourth wife?
And then I got out of control. I won’t tell you what I told her.
She believed it all, because I’m a pretty good storyteller. Went away satisfied.
I sat for a while in the cafe, feeling almost post-coital because I delivered, gave her what she wanted. Then the guilt set it.
Wrote this post. Desperately hope she doesn’t read it and doesn’t become disillusioned.
Or am I hoping she does read it, and forgives me?
Tell Me. My first novel!
I have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it. I can’t bring myself to re-read it. People still seem to enjoy it.
It’s very dirty.
I must end this post.