Monday, June 8, 2009
New Novel, Lost Love ... THE PRETEND WIFE
I miss Elliot Hull -- the messy, irrepressible, old college fling who returns, and makes his way back into the life of this novel – THE PRETEND WIFE – and the life of my narrator, Gwen Merchant. She’s married now, but conflicted about the idea of marriage, and she’s always opted for love in manageable portions – not the kind of love that Elliot Hull used to throw at her … love like an ocean.
This is my new novel. In fact, it’s official pub date is June 9th, and it’s always a strange thing, going public with a new novel. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. There the book is, all dressed up in a jacket, sitting on a bookshelf on display. I feel like saying, “Do I know you?” It’s like seeing your daughter on stage at her graduation. It’s a beginning and an end.
I rarely go back through my books. Inside the jacket when the words line up on the page, they still seem foreign to me – some other font, the strange fixed feeling to it all, the words glued down, nothing I can do for them now.
But every once in a while, I’ll pick one up just to torture myself or because I find myself in a writerly bind that feels familiar. I did this yesterday with an early copy of THE PRETEND WIFE. I’m in the throes of writing a new novel and I wanted to see how I’d managed some time shifts. I’d spent the day running up against some strong currents. And so I read the second chapter of the book – the flashback chapter when Gwen and Elliot meet at a mandatory college icebreaker. I can’t explain it, but at the end of that chapter I was choked up. It’s not a sad chapter -- wistful, yes, a little poignant, sure. But not sad. Still, there was a pang of love for the characters themselves – who they were then, who they become. The chapter is nostalgic, a little lonesome, and I was nostalgic and lonesome, missing these people I’d come to love.
Last week, a grad student of mine asked me if I’d ever felt depressed when finishing a novel. He’d expected to feel triumphant, elated, and wasn’t.
“Always,” I said.
But, of course, the characters’ lives are just revving up. They’re heading out into the world, and you have to have faith that they’ll do what you meant them to – in this case, take root in other people’s hearts and minds where they will live lives all their own, unknown to me. Little dispatches will be sent back – reviews and such – but, for the most part, my job now is to let them go, wish them well.
-- THE PRETEND WIFE (Random House, Bantam Dell) comes out this week, written under Julianna Baggott's pen name, Bridget Asher.
For more on Asher, visit www.bridgetasher.com. For more on Baggott, visit www.juliannabaggott.com.