About a week ago, I got the final edits of The Prodigal Hour from my editrix. Though her education and training are as an editor, her current job is unrelated, so this most recent round of edits took a little longer than before. I think she turned Meets Girl around in about a week, give or take.
There are reasons unrelated to work that this particular edit took longer.
The Prodigal Hour is her favorite novel. It’s the project I was working on when we met at USC, and I think my first work she ever saw. In a way, that made it as personal a project for her as it always has been for me, and that made her want to be really careful and make it ever better.
Now that I’ve gotten the edits back and finalized a revision, I think she’s right.
I think The Prodigal Hour is going to surprise people, because it’s simultaneously the project I’ve worked on the longest as well as the one least like anything else I’ve ever shared.
I’ve always had nearly conflicting sensibilities when it comes to writing. While I was in high school, blowing through the local library’s collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, I wrote those sorts of books. We write what we know, I guess, and my very first novel, written so many years ago and long-since abandoned, was called Twilight Brilliance, about a man with memory loss and psychokinetic powers, and lots of conspiracy and shadowy men and strangeness. It was a mess, never really knew what it wanted to be, and it will probably never see the light of day. Certainly in its current form it will remain forever in a forgotten corner of my hard drive, and I’m not sure I’ll revise it because there’s so much else to do, so many new ideas.
During college, when I majored in literature and started reading more widely–stuff like Vox and The Fermata by Nicholson Baker, for example–I started writing more widely, too. I remember I was a sophomore when I read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, which is, to my mind, a perfect novel, and yet so very different from his previous novel, Neverwhere.
I started to think in more dichotomous terms, started to have more varied ideas. Basically, I began to have two very different sets of ideas with regard to stories; there were the big, commercial stories heavy on plot and action, and then other, smaller stories just as long but more reliant on stuff like voice and conceit. I always thought of it as my Matt Damon model of publishing, probably because I saw Good Will Hunting toward the end of college and its success story became very much something I hoped to emulate in some way. Basically, back then, in interviews, Damon (and his co-writer Ben Affleck, for that matter), often talked something I’ve heard a lot of actors mention: that they like to balance their careers between big-budget commercial fare and smaller movies that might not make as much money but are more experimental. Consider that, while I was in college, Damon appeared in Courage Under Fire and The Rainmaker almost alongside Dogma and Good Will Hunting before he moved on to Rounders, then Saving Private Ryan, then The Talented Mister Ripley . . .
Meets Girl, of course, was not my first novel. Most authors’ debuts are not their first. I think the statistic is that most authors’ first novels are the fourth they wrote, or at least that’s what I remember one of my SC professors noting.
I’ve always thought of Meets Girl as smaller and more indie, though. It’s certainly more experimental. Around when I got to SC, I started to become fascinated by movies about movies, like Adaptation. I think maybe it’s called “narratology,” the study of narrative? I’m not sure. I just know that there were movies that played with storytelling, and I found it fascinating.
The Prodigal Hour is not my first novel, either, but it’s the one I think of as my first. I began it in high school and finished the first draft of it in December 2000.
And now, it’s revised.
The files are created. It’s in review. I spent most of the weekend coding, getting it ready for Kindle.
I’m kind of amazed, to be on the cusp of publishing it after all these years. It’s really exciting in a terrifying sort of way (which is often the very best kind there is).