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The architect and the gardener

Newsletter: June 2016

Dear web friend

Greetings again to this occasional letter, and I hope it finds you well. Thank you, as ever, for being there… for being kind enough to take note of my struggling, laughing life.

I write on the longest day of the year, which may also prove to be the wettest. Peter, our seagull, gazes mournfully at me through the window. It’s been raining for nine hours in these parts and he sits on the damp woodpile, wet but alert to my keyboard activities, and the first to know if I move towards the kitchen.

If I do, he’s there at the door when I arrive, tapping his beak against the window, to press his case for a (further) meal.

But it’s another meal I remember now, enjoyed recently in The Coronet in London’s Holloway Road. I was taking to a friend who writes books that sell many more than mine, and he was reflecting on two types of writer – the architect and the gardener. What’s the difference? Well, the architect is the writer who plans everything out before they start writing – every narrative arc, who does what and when, the denouement… these outlines are clearly drawn before the writing begins.

The gardener, however, just starts writing. They don’t know where the writing will lead; they just clear some space, tend the patch and see what grows. There’s an idea of what they want to see, but no sense of control; it will unfold as it unfolds. Some things grow along the way, some things don’t, though which will be which, who knows? So, for instance, I never know the murderer when I set out on an Abbot Peter mystery; I don’t even know who’s going to die sometimes. I just assemble some characters and see what arises…

Probably these two ways of writing are also two ways of living; there’s an architect and gardener in us all. Stress brings out the architect; the need to feel the control of everything being organised, everything anticipated, planned and sorted. And then sometimes we know the gardener, able to live a more unknowing adventure, responding to the unfolding, plans lightly held. Some things grow, some don’t, and that’s OK. And hopefully, all this without a murder…

As you’ll probably be aware, A (Very) Public School Murder, my latest Abbot Peter mystery, is now out and about in the world and feeling its pages turned.

For the uninitiated, the dark-corridored cover and beguiling blurb is found here:

Have you read it? Did you enjoy it? You haven’t read it?! I don’t know how it’s doing, but any support you can give to it – reviews, links, shares, getting it in your library, etc – is much appreciated. The next Abbot Peter is largely written, but will only see the light of day if the school murder – in the bloody and crowded market of crime fiction – convinces commercially.

In the meantime, I’ve just sent off the final manuscript of my new historical fiction. It’s called, The Soldier, the Gaoler, the Spy and Her Lover, and follows the (remarkable) last year of the life of Charles I, the only English king to be executed. You couldn’t make it up; and so I didn’t, staying very close to the real people and the real events. It’s published in February 2017, and I’ll say more about it nearer the time; but you are the first, bar none, to see the lovely cover.

Sodden Peter is still looking at me, looking harder, with more beak… and breaking my resistance. But before I feed him, a quick reminder that I’m taking bookings for The Beautiful Life retreat at Abbey House Glastonbury, in Oct/Nov 2016. Interested?

Details here:

But for now, whether you’re an architect or a gardener today, I wish you a good summer. There’s blue sky behind this cloud…

Until soon

Simon X

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