Sunday, December 02, 2007

Control

I have finally managed to publish Control, after much soulsearching/fartarsing about over titles and jackets. There's no specific book of his biopic so Ian Curtis can just fuck off.

I am very glad this one is over. It's one of my best works, I think, but still... I have remarked before on how hard this was to write so I won't repeat myself here, but honestly, I will be very glad to return to The Writing Class. There's a lot to be said for gentle romantic comedy.

You see, the thing people don't realise about writing is that it's a lot like magic or hypnotherapy (sorry Louisa, if you're reading this, but I do regard the two as rough equivalents and that is not meant as an insult): writing is meant to be a reflection of reality but occasionally - well no, actually, not occasionally, bloody frequently - the reverse is true. Sometimes writing makes things happen, and I don't mean through abstract and indirect mechanisms opaque to all but quantum mechanics students, no, I mean directly.

There is a scene in TWC where my protagonist, a grizzled and cynical old writer, explains to one of his students that sooner or later she will meet one of the characters she has invented. This is true. It seems especially common among graphic novel writers - Neil Gaiman has met Choronzon and narrowly missed Morpheus; Alan Moore allegedly bumped into John Constantine in a restaurant, and didn't make conversation - but I believe this affects us all to a greater or lesser extent. I met Anais from Living Things after I'd thought of her but before I'd written her, and she has become one of my most trusted friends, not to mention proving a useful reference point for the book itself. I usually like to use phrases like non-linear causality at this point. It's a story I've told before.

Anyway, that's the tip of the iceberg. Every writer believes, deep down, that everything they write carries some kind of causal weight: that simply imagining a thing hard enough can make it real, somewhere, somehow. It is, of course, completely true. It's nigh-on impossible to make people believe the outlandish events that seem to cluster around writers, ironically, but either the writing makes us nexi of unlikeliness or vice versa. It's like the Cassandra Complex but here, now, in the present.

This year I have twice been reminded of my Magic Fiction Powers. In Control I wrote a character who punches walls. He does this because he is angry and cannot control his anger: in an attempt to stop himself harming others he punches walls because it's as near as he can get to punching himself - he turns his rage inwards, bloodies his knuckles to punish himself for his inability to repress. I found myself in a (truly unprecedented) situation where I had bloodied my own fists doing the same thing last week - a bit of a worry, really, and another reason I am glad I am done with that novel. I fear I may have opened some doors I shouldn't have.

The central plot strand of TWC is a romance between an American and a Brit, an eventuality that happened - again, without precedent - to a friend of mine recently, to the extent that he feels the only solution is marriage. Come to think of it, he seemed to get a very good job in media right after I wrote an equivalent career development for his doppelganger in Living Things. I find myself wondering why all the happy stuff only seems to transmit to other people's lives... anyway, this kind of thing is most perturbing, as it places me in a position of horrifying responsibility for whichI am not trained or prepared: if subclones are invented and decimate the human population in the 2060s will it be my fault? I killed a quarter of a million babies in my last-but-one novel: should I be worried about this? I wonder if JK Rowling still loses sleep over Cedric Diggory.

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