When I’m writing fiction, and especially novels, the imagery tends to swamp me at some stage. With Dreamrunner, which I’m writing now, there’s a strong theme of the sea, foaming water, dolphins, waves. And just look at how watery this website has consequently become! If I’d set up the site while writing Breathing in Colour, it would have a far more Indian feel to it, for sure. The navigation buttons might have been elephant-shaped. There may have been henna designs snaking across all the pages. I enjoy the fact that my imagery sweeps me away each time. I keep dreaming of the ocean: glittering waves rearing high. A recent one was shaped like a melting Dali watch.
My publicist at Little, Brown asked me if I’d be willing to write short stories on commission, as well as features and interviews, in the months building up to the publication of the first novel. I agreed to everything she suggested except the stories, because I’m so bound up in the novel imagery that I feel I can’t risk being kicked away from it by having to immerse myself in new characters, new imagery, a new fictional world. I think I could do it if it weren’t for the deadline pressure, because I wrote quite a few short stories while writing the first novel during a three-year doctorate. If I had two leisurely years to write this novel, I could take the occasional week-long break and split away from it to write something completely different. Writing articles doesn’t affect my novel writing because it uses a different part of my mind. It’s factual, neat – nothing like the rush of emotional imagery and fabrication that my fiction is made up of.
Imagery, for me, is absolutely key to novel-writing, and I do whatever I can to keep mine safely flowing. I do things I never normally do, like going to the zoo – this is a trip I plan to make soon, despite not liking the fact of caged animals, because the little boy in the second novel needs to go there to watch the dolphin show. Or daydreaming as often as I can, inventing scenarios and seeing how they pan out. And dreaming intensely at night, which gives me fresh, alive imagery to work with.
What’s your current imagery? Is it a fire-blackened street, tiger eyes watching from a tree, shoals of golden fish? I’d love to hear a sentence or two from you.