In beginning any piece of writing, and particularly with a lengthy novel, the road ahead is unpredictable.
I am currently away from home, and therefore without the appropriate equipment for audio. The customary audio component will be uploaded upon my return.
I spent the summer of 2009 in the sticky heat of Taiwan with two goals in mind: to prepare for my wedding, and to officially begin the draft of my first novel, which was also to become my MFA thesis. In Pingtung, I had a room of my own in my aunt’s apartment. My desk overlooked a sheet of live bamboo below and the neighbors’ mirrored windows above; after hours of working in the early morning, I’d meet my mother at the second-floor kitchen. At night, I slept beneath a gauzy mosquito net so beautifully embroidered that I contemplated bringing one back to the States with me. All the while, the Nowaks—the family that would become the heart of my book—dwelled and grew and talked and squabbled in a world that was both mine and not-mine.
That was the beginning–both the easiest and the hardest part. In beginning any piece of writing, and particularly with a lengthy novel, the road ahead is unpredictable. Anything can happen. Anything will, and should happen. This is terrifying; it’s freeing. The beginning is an easy place to arrive at, and not so easy to take off from.
In a year, I’d tell my professor at the time that I’d thrown away over two hundred pages of the book. He’d read a chapter or so. “I admire the act,” he said, “but not the result.” This professor was not a fan of my work, I knew. I left the room, shaking, and cried in a corner of the cavernous building that was the English department. Then I went back to my apartment and wrote.
Meanwhile, the book was molting and metamorphosing over and over again. What had once taken place in contemporary Northern California was now beginning in World War II-era New York. Characters disappeared and new ones came in their place. Plotlines wilted on the vine. I wrote vastly different endings, and then went back to write vastly different beginnings. By the time I finished my first draft, which clocked in at 300+ pages, three years had passed, and the Nowaks had become real enough for me to dream about at night.
Someday I will write about the years that happened after I finished the first draft, and before I arrived in New Orleans this month in 2015. For now I’ll say that I’m editing the novel again, but for a new purpose: publication. My debut novel, The Border of Paradise, will be released in April 2016 by Unnamed Press.
It’s a new adventure. My epic tale about the origins of the Nowak family, and about their isolation and fate in the mountains of Northern California, will be something that I can hold; more importantly, it will be something that you can read. And there will be a book tour.
The news has been staggering to me in the best way possible.
Begin. Begin today, or begin today again.