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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Babies and Books Have a Lot in Common

My new crime thriller, Gallows Hill, is going to the typesetter this weekend, so I am deep in the never-ending end of the final edit. Pin-pointing the end of the process of writing a book is a little like identifying that moment when one’s adult children leave home. Just as you think the book is done/the kids have moved out it/they return. But with hindsight, I can see that the end-of-the-end started exactly a month ago with the birth of my tiny nephew. My three year-old niece came to spend the night with me while her bug-eyed parents went to hospital. Both of them were stricken with that look people get when the future in the form of an infant – inexorable, painful and expensive – bears down on them.

That night was dark and stormy; I know this because my roof leaked, soaking my three-year-old niece to the skin. It was midnight before I got her dry again and settled her in my bed, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. Not with the book deadline rushing at me like a bullet train driven by my implacable publisher. So, I just stayed up and worked all night; my manuscript was overdue. It had to be in. Now. Like the baby being born, there was no more give! As I worked later and later into the night, it occurred to me how alike babies and books are; the four a.m. sleeplessness being only the most superficial similarity.

There are others. Both babies and books seem like an astoundingly good idea when you get them started. That’s the fun part. It is usually quick, often done on holiday under the influence of alcohol. These happy origins are rapidly forgotten by everybody except the author and/or mother as gestation takes place out of sight, if not out of mind.

This discreet phase, however, has one inevitable and melodramatic ending: an agonising labour. Books, like babies, require blood, sweat, tears and the occasional star in the east before they will be delivered. In the immediate and exhausted aftermath there is a non-pregnant pause when everyone with a vested interest holds their collective breath and the book/baby is checked. Head, body, arms, legs, fingers, toes for the babies. Plot, style, tension, character, dialogue, profit potential, for books.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 8th, 2011 @22:06 #

    I loved this Margie -- "Books, like babies, require blood, sweat, tears and the occasional star in the east before they will be delivered", esp as one up to her elbows in the book midwifery business at the moment.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    August 9th, 2011 @15:23 #

    Forceps are needed on occasion, and a stern word to the flagging mother, I would imagine


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