When I was sixteen, I wrote a novel that took place on the Titanic. It was a fun, melodramatic drama-romance in the vein of the Christian fiction I was reading at the time, but eventually went on the shelf as I focused on other projects. Now and again, I thought, “I should go back and do something with those characters,” one, in particular – my
first love hero. But as more and more Titanic novels flooded the market, I wondered what could set mine apart and left it on the proverbial shelf. (Okay, a dusty computer file stuck in a folder somewhere…)
The Titanic has countless espionage novels, spy novels, romance novels, mystery novels, and even a few werewolf novels – I ought to know, I’ve read them all. So I waited for an idea. Last year I started writing historical speculative fiction and finally got one. This story would be different. It would begin years before the ship sets sail, on a dark and stormy night (yes, really) in Belfast and then take its reader on a magic-infused, peril-laced, ghost-infested (in more ways than one) journey that explores the nature of good and evil.
It’s a novel that has brought me full circle. At last, I’ve put all my knowledge about the ship, Harland & Wolff, Thomas Andrews, Lord Pirrie, and Margaret Brown to use. I can move on without having the specter (the original title for this draft) of untapped potential hanging over me. I’m no longer haunted by a need to return to that particular time period and ship. I’m not like most writers: I’ll stick with a genre but move around in it. I rarely go back and revisit paths I’ve already taken – just as in life, I rarely return to previous relationships, hobbies, or habits.
Writing is an excuse to do research and learn, and an outlet for that knowledge. If I fall in love with a time period or historical figure, I feel compelled to write a novel because I know there will come a day when I know everything about that obsession and no longer need to think about it. Writing a novel reminds me of where I’ve been, what I learned, and what came of it.
Leaving behind something makes me feel a little sad, but because I have something to show for it, I can move past obsession into fond remembrance without much grief.
I came, I saw, I conquered.
Footnote: The Secret in Belfast will be out March 1st.