Some births have a very long gestation period. In the case of EXIT its conception goes back to my lonely teenage years sitting in my bedroom listening to Joy Division and the Smiths, reading the poetry of Emily Bronte and the comics of Alan Moore while a poster of Ian Curtis watches down serenely from my wall. EXIT is a baby I have been carrying for a very long time. To take that analogy further if I am indeed EXIT’s mother, then its father might well have been Morrissey, Curtis, Bronte or Moore. Perhaps a literary Ménage à trois from all the above suitors. I was unfaithful. I forget. Perhaps I was drunk?
Of course novelists influenced me too, but these writers coming from the disparate fields of music, poetry and comics gave me something other than the obvious tools of story, plot and characterization: they gave me attitude, and an ideal for living. The conviction that you could write as yourself, even in a field where you were different. You didn’t have to follow trends or do what was popular at the time. You do what you do and do it well. It endures. I guess if you extrapolate that ideal then in life you should be yourself and hopefully people will like you and what you do, and if they don’t well at least you have been faithful to yourself.
EXIT came after writing an aborted (no pun intended) first novel which never quite held together or said what I wanted it to say. I think because throughout it I was finding my voice as a writer, and I remember looking it over and seeing that journey; there were bits that sounded like Alan Moore, bits like Anais Ninn, bits like a slice-of-life writer named Alice Hoffman who I liked a lot at the time, probably many other influences. But towards the end, it started to sound like someone else. Someone who wasn’t quite so easy to nail down.
By the time I had finished it I was sounding like myself. Of course I could have gone back and revised this first book, but by then another idea had hooked and taken my imagination to another place. The image of a lonely young Drew Barrymore-like girl standing in her room with her hands pressed to a glass window pane, watching the people pass in the world outside, but unable to go outside. This was the other thing I learned is a novel is such a commitment, you have to write not only something you know, but also something you must write, and have to share because you are the only one who will write this story. If you don’t it dies with you.
So how does it feel now it’s about to finally be published? Perhaps a little sad. Because if the book is my child, and in a sense it is, then I have learned as all parents must face one day, that the child will leave, it will no longer be theirs. It never was. It belongs to the world.
EXIT now belongs to the world too.