Another in my occasional series of Q and A sessions today. Here I have a question about Song of the Sea God from a reader from the UK. Thanks very much to Sonia for the question and if you have anything to ask me about writing, publishing, my book – or indeed whatever else, ask them in the comments below or let me know on Twitter @ChilledCH or Facebook here.
How did you come up with the story for Song of the Sea God and how long did it take you to write?
Sonia from Gloucestershire, UK
Thanks for your question Sonia – and thanks very much for reading the book! One part of your question is easy to answer – the other part, perhaps surprisingly, is a little less easy.
The easy bit first. The book took me around two years to write. That’s roughly a year for the first draft then another year for the rewriting until I got it how I wanted it and was happy that it was ready for me to start looking for a publisher. It partly takes me that long because I have a day job and a family, but also – I didn’t see the need to hurry. I was happy to take my time and make it as good as I could. It’s tough finding a publisher these days, and even tougher finding readers, so you really want your book to be the best it can be.
As for the other part of the question – how did I come up with the story? Well, strange as it may seem, I’m not sure I know. One of the remarkable things about writing a book is that you can get to the end, leave it a little while, then come back to it fresh and it feels as though someone else has written it.
It’s as if it was summoned up by some deep-felt sympathetic magic – or the idea for the book was transmitted to me by friendly aliens. I suppose the effect in this case is particularly pronounced given the weird and wonderful nature of Song of the Sea God – the off-beat supernatural elements. So I could get swept away with some romantic notion of my book having come from the great beyond.
Some authors actually do go down this road – and other artists too. I once met a musician, for example, who genuinely believed his songs had been personally delivered to his psyche by the late great Bob Marley. I listened to his album, sadly it sounded as though Bob’s unfortunate demise hadn’t done his song writing skills much good.
But, wild and crazy book notwithstanding, I am a fairly straightforward guy and I know the that truth about where art comes from is more prosaic. So I suppose the most honest thing to say is that the idea for my book evolved. It builds up, slowly and incrementally, really without you noticing. There is no big eureka moment, that’s the nature of evolution. You start with and ape and finish with a human being and think – ‘how the hell did that happen?’
I started out wanting to write a book about the nature of god and religious belief – what it means to people and how it affects them in an age when lots of people (me included) aren’t really religious in the traditional sense of going to church and so on. But we still might have a need for belief – or a feeling that there’s something more than just ourselves – a god-shaped hole in our lives.
I was thinking around that and at some point I came up with the idea of having a character who believed it was his destiny to become a god. So I had people who needed a god and a man who believed it was his job to become one – and the idea developed from there.
I decided to set it on an island – that added a whole bunch of ideas. I wanted a narrator who was an outcast, yet intelligent and wise (up to a point), that allowed me to do different things. As I say – it evolved.
In terms of having an idea for a book I think it helps if you have a main character who wants to achieve something – he has a mission if you like. It gives the book drive and purpose. And in Sea God John Love very definitely has a mission he wants to achieve. John Love wants to be god – even though it is something most people would think was quite insane.
Did that answer the question? Hope so! What do you other writers and readers think about the creative process? Share in the comments below.
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.