Sunday, May 15, 2011

Living As A Moon

So, the last few entries I've talked a bit about the workshops I've been to recently, and it brought to mind one Owen Marshall. I went to a couple of workshops with him back in...oh, it must have been 2009, as I remember I had planned only to do the one on the Saturday, but it was so fantastic I spent the night frantically sorting out my packing and travel arrangements and turned up on Sunday, too; then on Monday I got up at five in the morning and flew to Japan for two weeks. Good times! I think some of my original reticience had arisen because although Owen Marshall is a very well-known New Zealand author, I had never encountered him either at high school or university (in fact, I did almost no study of New Zealand works during my proper education; Heavenly Creatures and Broken English are as close as we got; both, incidentally, are films well worth the watching). The only time I'd read one of his stories was during a slightly infamous SIT pilot course in...2008, it must have been, because I think it was that course that inspired me to enrol as an extramural student at Massey in 2009. But yes, I didn't much enjoy this course, and that in turn slightly coloured my impressions of Owen Marshall's work.

Then I met him, and promptly fell in love.

...I should probably explain that by adding that I fall in love with people like this on a regular basis. I mean, when I was ten years old I went to see Jurassic Park with my form one class and I'm in love with Sam Neill to this day. (Yes, occasionally I lean on the breakwall around Lake Wakatipu and wonder why he can't just appear at that moment, like in a movie. Not that I'd even talk to him, I'd just stare and giggle and generally act like I'd just escaped from Charenton, or something.) But Owen Marshall was just...wonderful. He inspired me greatly, and was generally an all around awesome guy, so...I went out and bought one of his books. Living As A Moon. And I am deeply ashamed to admit that I only decided to actually read it the other day.

Reading this book proves to me again his general awesomeness, it must be said, but I'm finding that reading these short stories? Makes me think again about my own. I was planning to spend this weekend working on the first three chapters of Greywater so I could finally start sharing the story with people (most of the really complete draft stuff is from about chapter four onwards, unfortunately), but instead I've been messing about with short stories. One of them was my own damn fault; Becs asked me to act as a pinch-hitter for a group project of the Southern Scribes, as I haven't been going to the meetings regularly enough to have been a part of it in the first instance. It's a fascinating little experiment, which I'll tell you about another day when I've actually read the end result of the first draft (which is currently sitting in my inbox, along with half a dozen other things I really ought to read/reply to). But I had dragged my heels on it a bit, and at the dinner on Thursday I promised her profusely I'd email her my contribution either late Friday or early Saturday. Some drama later, it was sent by 2pm on Saturday afternoon. We're talking about a piece of flash fiction less than a thousand words long, here. My usual modus operandi rarely permits me to drop below ten thousand. Maybe that was the problem? Oh, well, at any rate Owen Marshall sustained me through my struggles. ...did I already tell you that this man is bloody awesome? ^_~

So, you'd figure that after this, I could go back to the novel. Apparently not. I'd been chatting via deviantart to one of the wonderful artists I've been commissioning, and she'd asked me about Ryenn and Arosek. I decided, rather than explaining some of their complicated history, I'd just show her by giving her a draft of The Simple Story. But then I realised this "short" story (it's far closer to a novella, at 22k) wasn't really in a fit state, so I spent yesterday putting it back together. And I ended up fascinated by those two all over again, and so today I returned to poking at the story I started in Australia last month. Just...what even is this thing. O_o It's not finished yet, but it's getting there. I'm going to work on it a little more in a bit, but...yeah. Gah. I'm also feeling the urge to return to the story I had intended last year to write for the long-since published anthology A Foreign Country, but I never finished the damn thing. It still fascinates me to this day, and...yeah. There's also the fact I should start writing properly for both the Dan Davin and Katherine Mansfield short story competitions, I am, obsessing dreadfully over two characters who just make me horribly, horribly sad.

I've always had a habit of being cruel to my characters, I have to admit, but these two remind me of my overall reaction to the anime Death Note. I won't go into detail, because it's a long story best viewed on your own terms, but essentially the end result of the actions of the various protagonists is just...waste. Terrible, horrible, pointless waste. I once saw an AMV made of the show to Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, and it summed it up perfectly for me. much pride, and so far to fall. I get that same feeling with Arosek and Ryenn, in that Ryenn just wasted Arosek's life. But with that said, Arosek chose that path just as much as Ryenn guided him towards it, and...I don't know. It just makes me cry.

It's interesting, though, because I've wandered back into reading histories of Alexander the Great again. Partially it's because I need to drum up interest in military history in order to make sense of Otho's position as a Major in the Sarinian army, but it was Alexander and then reading novels along the lines of The Other Boleyn Girl that first led me to develop these characters. It's that sense of never knowing what really happened, you know? We can imagine what Mary Boleyn did in the last days of her more famous sister, and we can draw conclusions about the relationship of Alexander and Hephastion from the ancient sources that remain, but we'll never know. And that's why I created Arosek and Ryenn. No-one knows why they did what they did.

...well, except for them. And now, as I dig deeper into their minds and hearts and pasts, I'm starting to see why too. And it's breaking my heart. Ah, stories, why can't I quit you? ;_;


  1. You ARE cruel to your characters, aren't you? I'm still a bit traumatized by the tragic events of FWWD. Poor Julia, poor Andy, but above all POOR WOODY!

    To some extent it could be said they do it all themselves (though a lot of it boils down to Julia), but really... very sad.

    Do any of your characters get a happy ending? I've probably asked you that before, but I can't remember the answer (my life, much like Groundhog day, consists of asking the same questions and doing the same things, and all because I have a bad memory!)

  2. I traumatised myself with Woody, if that makes anyone feel any better? (Woody assures me that it doesn't help. But then the Woody in my head these days sits around with Andy living out this commercial, so he's...happy enough? XD) But yeah, happy endings, happy I'm pretty sure Tess and Jon end up living happily ever after, but considering their age difference they kind of have to earn it. And then there's Círa and Otho, who is theory get a happy ending, but...yeah. Círa is immortal. Otho isn't. It's a bit like Eliot and everyone he ever cared about who wasn't what he was. >_<;;