Has it been done before? We don’t think so. Yes, there’s been dual authorship (is that the right term or is it a theological concept?) like Nicci French, Ellery Queen or Sergeanne Golon (remember lovely Angelique?). But, fifteen writers collaborating on the writing of a novel? It’s more like something that happens in television – a stable of writers developing the on-going story of EastEnders or Mad Men. Then again, thinking about it, there was the King James Bible.
But these fifteen writers aren’t scholars or translators – they’re Dark Angels. Now Dark Angels, these Dark Angels, aren’t bikers or Goths or heavy metal rockers; they’re an eclectic bunch of writers who have come together through the Dark Angels creative writing programme (now entering its tenth year) and, having been through three course levels together, are embarking on their second collaborative project (the first, last year, was an exhibition, pairing with visual artists, at the Oxford Story Museum called 'Other Worlds').
The next challenge was to write a collective novel. How do you do that? We had no precedents. So we had to invent our own process. First step was to get fifteen writers to an interesting and remote Scottish country house for a long weekend of planning and writing. Our starting point had been to read William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying. We thought this was a useful model as the story is told from the viewpoint of a number of characters, each chapter being a different voice.
So, once gathered together around the fire in the coldest March on record, we started to create characters to tell a story about a woman who dies in a Scottish country house – and whose family decide to transport her body back to London in a white van via a few special, possibly secret-laden locations. It seemed to have some comic possibilities – and other possibilities too, poetic, psychological, philosophical. It’s an adventure we’re writing and it’s an adventure in writing.
Follow us, support us – come along for the ride. We plan to deliver a stonking good story.
They say you should walk towards the light. Well I didn’t. I fled. I ran away from it. I pushed the light back and it splintered in my hands like glass. I thought I might be dead because there was no blood. I raged, I wept. I shouted. There was no pain. I screamed. There was no noise. It wasn’t time. It wasn’t right. But still, I did not know that I was dead. Still, I hoped that I was not. I wasn’t ready.
So now from a distance I must watch this private life of mine unfurl, spilling secrets over the children, over Solomon, like a rose bruised in a storm. I never intended to hurt them with the truth. I believe in the power of secrets. I believe that they can protect the ones you love. I believe that secrets can hold you down to earth when all you want to do is fly away.
When Rebecca was a newborn baby and the boys were at school, day and night swam together. I would lie beside her in a darkened room, inhaling the top of her head, listening for the lengthening of quick, shallow breaths. Her puckered, jerky hands clasping my index finger. I wondered if she could hold us together. If she would be enough, this tiny life of ours?
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