Sailing the writerly seas

Sailing the writerly seas

Posted on November 29 by Cheryl Cooper in Fiction, Recent Releases
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For about 12 years now, the majority of my days have been spent sitting at my writing desk, creating sentences, hemmed in by a fortress of books on sailing ships & shipwrecks, the British Royal Navy and the naval War of 1812, listening to the movie scores of Master & Commander and Pride & Prejudice (among others) that transport me back in time to a world that has long since passed away, and help me to imagine lives that were once played out on the high seas.  

I am always trying to invent new ways to describe my cast of characters – their appearance, their voices, their gestures, their motivations – and if you were a fly on the wall of my writing room, you would hear me mumbling away, carrying on conversations with them all.

Though the writerly life is more often than not a solitary one, I’m never alone. Emily and Leander… Captain Fly Austen and little Magpie… Biscuit and Prosper Burgo all keep me company, encouraging me to continue their story, warning me whenever I veer off-track – whenever I have put words into their mouths that they would never say, or have them do things that they would never do.

There are, however, some challenging sides to this writing business. For example, being hunched over a laptop for long periods of time is hard on my back, and my stomach isn’t always happy with the copious quantities of coffee I consume while tapping away on the keyboard. And as the years have gone by, I now have to reach for a magnifying glass in order to read the fine print in old research documents and materials.   

Moreover, writing can be an awfully slow – and sometimes painful – process. Each one of my three novels took me four years to write! If I were a younger woman, in the time it took me to research, write and edit Run Red with Blood, I could have earned another university degree or given birth to three more children.

What makes me really wonder is that Charles Dickens penned David Copperfield in 19 months! Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights in nine months, and all six of Jane Austen’s major works were published within a span of seven years. But then again, in order to maintain courage and a belief in oneself, no author should ever compare themselves to the achievements of literary greats!

With the publication of Run Red with Blood, I am celebrating life and its possibilities, because this is what I always wanted to do – ever since Grade 4 when I first began scribbling down stories in my school notebooks with an eraser-topped pencil.

At times I certainly wanted to give up on my writing dream – but never did, despite the stream of rejection letters that rolled in, or the Writer-in-Residence at the Richmond Hill Public Library who completely destroyed me when I was 27 after telling me my first attempt at a novel was so boring and banal that he had fallen asleep by the third page.

I am very thankful that I did not give up. And in retrospect, I credit that heartless scribe with spurring me on, firing me up with renewed determination. The truth is, I couldn’t have given up anyway, because I have always been drawn to creative writing – just as I have always been drawn to a plate of cake or chocolate chip cookies.

The wonderful side of being a writer is reaching the point where I can share my work with you, the reader. It’s the part that makes it all worthwhile. There is nothing sweeter than for an author to hear from someone who enjoyed their books – to know that a particular scene affected them in some way and made them weep or laugh out loud; or that they liked this character and disliked that one; or, in my case, that they perhaps learned something fascinating about the lives of the men who lived and fought for their country onboard warships and privateers during the Age of Sail.   

From here on my goal is to keep it all going – to keep creating stories for as long as I continue to breathe (and my eyesight and lower back offer me some measure of co-operation). I have loads of ideas for adventures – so many more places I hope to take my characters before I am done, and before I set down my pen (or rather, shut down my laptop) for the very last time.