This Alternate World

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The thing about writing a novel is that every day, for a while, you step out of your day to day reality and into another world. This sounds great, but it’s quite a feat… especially when the world you are seeking to create doesn’t sit too well with the everyday life carrying on around you. Maybe that’s why I write so early in the morning.

I have a couple of frankly quite unsavoury characters in the novel. Writing them is I think starting to influence my behaviour! But it is more than that. Some aspects of what I am doing are quite dark. And it is a strangely quasi reality that I am dealing with. Based on the city of Johannesburg, not so much as it physically appears, but more as it psychically resonates with its inhabitants. It’s like a mirage shadow that shimmers and disappears, only to appear again a bit further away.

This literary shadow boxing can get a bit tiring until you get fit. And two or so week in is not quite fit yet! But I am enjoying retracing my steps back into this place. This after all has been a long journey: One that was born over an idle conversation in a car on the way back from the Oppikoppi festival with journalist Therese Owen and promoter Bill Botes. Those ideas evolved around a graphic novel that fused a definite past with a fictional now to create a metaphorical city of ideals and extremes.

After pursuing those thoughts for a while I realised, graphic version or not, there still had to be a novel to illustrate! So rather than work through that process, here I am, writing up a large book about my home town, its people, my friends, and my ideas about the world.

They say that all fiction is to a greater or smaller extent autobiographical. I prefer to think that it is a scenario sketching exercise where one can explore ideas or notions that the waking you would never pursue in everyday life. But you’ve thought about them. It’s like creating a herd of doppelgangers and sending them out to explore these other thoughts to see where they might have gone without being locked up. O r is it? Are all these thoughts mere mirrors to the societies we exist in and reactions to its pressures?

What I do know is that there is a definite shape and form to this that is emerging and the voice is finding itself with every session at the keyboard. Thankfully the amount of time I have spent with this idea in my head has been fruitful, and many disparate snarks and whirls of thought are coalescing their way down into the narrative. Soon I will be able to share with you some snippets and bits and pieces as these opening salvos settle down and start to head off to their respective horizons. Meantime, happy Wednesday!

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