The period after a novel’s release is sometimes as fraught as the lead-up, but in an entirely different way. It’s nearly two weeks since my novel Loving Le Corbusier made its debut and I’d forgotten the feeling that creeps in at this time. Although it’s truly exciting to see your baby take its first steps in the world, there’s also a kind of dead feeling lurking in the background. I keep thinking of the French term, la petite morte, the little death, which is used to describe the moment directly after orgasm. That’s what it feels like – a moment when you almost cease to be.
Maybe it’s the same after most endeavours – winning a race, putting on a show, getting a job you’ve always dreamed of. Sometimes it steals in and whispers quietly in your ear: so that’s it, is it? All that work and now what?
It reminds me of something I did a few years ago. I was an extra in Wolverine, one of those X-Men Origins films. It was quite a palaver. I was a Confederate soldier in an American Civil War battle sequence at the beginning of the film and so I had to grow a beard, which was alarming (where did those grey hairs come from?). A group of us spent a day at Fox Studios learning how to load and fire muskets, how to march, and how to fight convincingly. We had another day of wardrobe fittings. Filming took place some months later in farmland outside Sydney. Base camp with its trailers and tents took up most of one field, and there was another encampment closer to the shooting location, which was where we ate. There were people simply everywhere. Make-up took forever (they even put make-up inside my ears) but it was great fun spending a couple of days being blown up or firing cannons. I remember a moment when I looked out over a battle-field with its smoke and explosions, hearing the yells and screams of soldiers, and then watched the cavalry arrive over the hill with flags flying. For a terrifying second I felt as though I’d slipped back in time. At the end of filming, we were presented with a Wolverine shaving brush and released from this curious filmic bubble. Normal life felt rather dull the next day. Une petite morte. (When the film came out, those days of filming were reduced to a few seconds. All that effort, all that energy, all that money. It was a lesson in Hollywood excess.).
It’s yin and yang, of course, the essential balance of opposites. All the upswing of energy and excitement that culminates in the end of a project has to be balanced by a downswing. It’s the silence after the argument, the cool breeze at the end of a hot day. And it’s temporary. Because after la petite morte comes movement and life. For me, my novel is out there and after this passing moment, I will move on with the activity of promoting it with a different kind of vigour. It’s how it is, and I can feel that upsurge dawning now.
Does this happen to you, too?
Yes, I absolutely relate to that strange flat feeling after publication. I really loved the book and have just reviewed it. I wondered if you’d like to do a Q&A on my blog about the process of writing it. I could e-mail you some questions and you could see what you think. I’d like to tell you I have a huge following but about a quarter of yours I’m afraid so you may not think it worth doing but if you’d like to and it would help I’d be honoured. Many, many congratulations – it’s a fab book. I think I know now what Simon Schama meant by the ‘archive of the feet’ because I definitely felt you had been and walked in all those beautiful places you described!
Vicky, I am so thrilled you enjoyed it. What a terrific Schama quotation, too – I certainly felt it was vital to walk the same places as Yvonne. Tt’s always wonderful to receive such positive feedback and even more special from such a witty and erudite writer. I’ll email you about the Q&A but thank you!
I so agree with Vicky – it is a wonderful piece of work, Colin.
From the very start I was immersed in post WW1 Paris, you create such fabulous atmosphere.
And I love your use of colours …
You are right, this is all part of the creative process. And remember, many Creatives never finish their projects precisely because they do not want to go through what you are going through now.
Have no fear. Loving Le Corbusier is going to fly.
That’s wonderful feedback, thank you so much. You’re right, it is part and parcel of the process, and I’m already beginning to feel revived again.