The final sentence of Snakewood approached, already in my head, and I’m looking at the words unfold like I’m on a train thundering off the rails and over the cliff.
I started to cry as the final three or four words hit the screen and that full stop landed, 1.50am, Feb 2.
It’s written. The book is written, the end of those years researching on the short commute from Aldershot to Guildford, writing during my final spell of unemployment from the games industry, writing in the Welwyn basement room I lived in when contracting away from my family, then tapping away the last thirty thousand words on the 07.32 to London Bridge. Ten years easily, during which my kids pushed ‘Dad’ way forward of ‘Writer’.
Now I have told the characters’ stories. I have their gratitude I hope, despite the twenty years they’d waited for me to get around to writing their journals that described the end of a mercenary crew. But I’ve been fragile ever since, a bit lost.
I think I was, in a soft, purely intellectual way, grieving for them. In drafting this post I’m reminded of Boris Spassky’s comment, long after his epic battle with Bobby Fischer in Iceland in ’72. He said that for nearly a year after that match he missed Fischer, he wished he could be with him, see him again. It was like losing a loved one, such was the intensity of the match itself, the effort of trying to get into Fischer’s mind. Of course, my sense of loss of purpose is only as deep or meaningful as it is for everyone who’s achieved something they’ve fought to do on terms purely personal, rather than in the glare of History itself.
I wrote two chapters of Snakewood while in college, in 1990, my second year there. The writing on those sheets, worn out pages of dot matrix sentences I’d kept in the attic, was turgid. How I passed that Creative Writing course I’ll never know, though without it I’d not have discovered a life’s worth of literature that has changed my horizons as a writer beyond recognition.
Poignantly, Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory was one of the very first books that the writing course gave us to study. Brought up on Tolkien, Conan and Elric at home, Dickens and Shakespeare at school, it was a fierce shock that reflected back onto the flat prose that was all I could give. We’ll see soon enough if anything’s changed :)
Since then the cast of Snakewood have been in and around my head. Now they’ve gone. Through February and March I couldn’t focus on anything after work. It’s happened to me too after the games I’ve worked on have shipped. The phenomenal effort to get those games done left the teams emotionally drained. For months afterwards, even after the holidays had been taken, it was hard to get the passion going. We were punch-drunk, skirting the foothills of the next mountain we would aim to build, unsure if we were ready to go through it all again.
While returning to edit Snakewood I started to think about other books. I still am thinking about them, making notes about this girl called Serendipity who will dance with the Devil, from Barry to the end of the universe (they are quite different places I assure you). But when I open Dropbox to put ideas down for the series of novellas planned for her I see Snakewood there; finished business but unfinished business as the work of sending it to agencies, and probably then, the work to get it self published, is yet to be done.
Let’s see how it goes.