About: “Mirrors”

The boring bits first: this is a big book (172k words, 500 pages), and took a long time to write. Well, not exactly a long time in terms of the physical process of writing those 172k words, but in elapsed time. Many years, in fact.

I had the original idea way back and maybe wrote the first few chapters over twenty years or so ago. After that, there would have been a pause, then a bit more writing, then mapping out the whole thing soup to nuts. And then another pause. The writing-pausing scenario became quite iterative until a couple of years ago when I made the conscious effort and commitment to push on to the end…

I have always been intrigued by how the passage of time affects our perception of – and relationship to – just about everything, and how we get a measure of ourselves through other people, like taking soundings on a ship. The notion in “Mirrors” was, by having someone (a son) looking back at the life of another (his father), to examine how doing so reflected and impacted on the son’s own life. As the book grew and began to take on a life of its own, I came up with the idea of a-book-within-a-book: in my story I would include extracts from the biography the son was writing, that way I could attempt to give his ‘first-hand’ perspective on events rather than just my authorial own.

That notion then turned into a set of Russian Dolls, because the son’s book then needed to include extracts from his subject’s / his father’s own work… This meant that there could be multiple ‘mirrors’ within the novel, refracting and reflecting between the characters – ‘real’ and fictional – in complex ways (as in life) with Mark (the son) being the vessel who, in the end, has to try and absorb all of these insights and nuances. From a writing perspective, the challenge of having to adopt different styles of writing within the novel was actually wonderful – I hope I carried it off ok.

Even now I love the idea. I can see me using it again some day. Do I love the book? Bits of it, undoubtedly – just as I would adore a couple of lines from a poem I wrote rather than the whole thing. It is surely too dangerous – and too self-defeating – to think something you have written is absolutely spot on…


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