Amy Impellizzeri knows the terrors of being a first novelist, and she's written a wonderful essay about dealing with them. Her first novel Lemongrass Hope was called a "layered, bittersweet romance" by the notoriously cranky Kirkus Reviews, and New York Times bestselling author, Jacquelyn Mitchard called it "a truly new story. Impellizzeri is a bold and tender writer, who makes the impossible feel not only real, but strangely familiar."
Lemongrass Hope, about love, time travel, and what lasts, is haunting, mesmerizing and unforgettable. Thanks for writing an essay for the blog, Amy!
I was sitting on my bedroom floor with the pages of what would later become my first novel strewn all over the place like they were auditioning as a new carpet.
On any given day, I loved them and I hated them.
But on that day, I hated them.
They were staring at me like lost children. Like I should somehow be the one in control. Like I should know.
But, instead, it was they who were controlling me. Taunting me with their 143 occasions of the word “whispered” (Wait! There’s another one. 144. And counting.)
Taunting me with their mistaken uses of lay/lain. With their “something is not quite right here with the structure of your story” – they chided me petulantly and I rubbed my eyes, as I thought about how easy it would be to just.give.up.
We went on like that, day after day, week after week, month after month. The pages and I. No – the words and I. A dance for control. We got into each other’s heads. We danced some more. Got into each other’s heads some more.
I started to believe something about the pages – about the words.
The end. It’s the end that’s bothering me.
The end was haunting me.
One night I woke from a dead sleep at 2 am, and I wrote and wrote as if I was possessed. For weeks and then months, I wrote, and re-wrote and edited.
The words and I danced and I no longer even tried tried to control them. I let them take shape. The way they wanted. The story unfolded in ways I never realized it could.
It was at that point - oddly enough – that the end stopped haunting me.
I wrote and wrote, and re-wrote and edited.
But not the end.
I left the end alone.
Because I realized that it was the beginning that had been haunting me all along.
And one day, I said to my publisher “Should I-?”
“No,” she said. “It’s finished. It’s ready.”
“Not even the end?”
“Especially not the end.”
Yet, despite her words, her assurances, and the fact that the novel has been sent to print, I’m still haunted.
I write more words, and I sit with them on my bedroom floor, pages strewn all over the place like they are auditioning as a new carpet.
I love them and I hate them.
They are the beginning of something new, and I am starting to realize that the beginning will always be what haunts me.
Not the end.
Because when you write – when you have to write, of course, - there is no end.