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?