I have just reached the end of the first draft of a novel I am working on about a group of people on holiday in Italy. The first half is quite polished, the second less so, the last few pages typed in haste and excitement at reaching the end, are probably appalling. The Summer Holiday has an uplifting ending, it seemed to warrant it, whereas The Seven Year Itch, did not seem to justify a happy ending and some readers were disappointed. I found I couldn’t bear to completely say goodbye to my characters from the Seven Year Itch and so two of them: the selfish but endearing actor Jack and his slightly wild, estranged wife Ellie appear in this story, as a kind of subplot sequel. The week in Umbria, changes all my characters lives in a subtle but profound way. I do not have a two-book deal, so at some ghastly point the book will be touted around. God help me.
Its strange when you get to an end of a book, because you can hardly remember every detail of what has happened 70,000 words back and some things don’t add up. You have to find out what they were all doing and saying at the beginning and what has changed as they evolve over the timescale, which in this case is a year and a half. I have started the editing process but it feels like a monumental task.
I am pleased the novel is set in Italy. I am going to Cortona next week, and it will be my first time in Italy for a couple of years. I imagine that when I am an old lady, I will be living somewhere near Rome, stuffing myself on pesto and mozzarella and visiting paintings and piazzas.
I read a couple of books for vague background research, just really to imbibe me with the atmosphere – Rachael Cusk’s superb memoir, The Last Supper (about her three months sabbatical in Italy) is so beautifully written it makes me despair at the idea of calling myself a writer. I also read a couple of cook-books, The Real Flavour of Tuscany is a great book which gives recipes and portraits of artisans. Two of my characters get quite competitive about the cooking, and as I’m writing this, I am reminded to do more work on that. No doubt this editing process won’t be finished by tomorrow when the 5 year old girl and 8 year old boy break up as I had hoped. Seven weeks of summer holiday. Give me Strength.