That’s what has happened to me – and what I’m waiting to find out.
I was a late developer as a writer, finding so many things got in the way. I started to write seriously five years ago, and my first book, Vintage, was published last year by Five Leaves, an independent publisher in Nottingham.
Vintage is a time-swap story about Holly from 2010 and Marilyn from 1962. They swap bodies and lives and find out what it’s like to live in completely different eras. It’s going down well with reviewers, ‘a very compelling and thought-provoking read’.
I say Vintage was my first book, because it’s the first one that was published, but it was the second book I completed. The first got me my agent – that was the passionate book, the one I really felt I wanted to be available. It’s hard to feel that when the world is so full of books.
Mel is an outrageous girl who doesn’t care about anything – until something happens that she has to care about. It’s about a dad who gets too close. But it’s more about how Mel gets closer to everyone she knows, by having to deal with what happens to her and her family.
When Five Leaves liked Closer, in spite of its edginess, the discomfort of its subject and its approach, I was delighted that it would happen. The book only needed minor editing before it could go ahead.
Then last November, life jumped in. My lovely son Benn died, at 37, from the epilepsy which he’d had since he was seventeen – caused during his birth.
His death was sudden, catastrophic and brutal, in the middle of one of the happiest, most creative times of his life. He was an artist, and supported others to make and sell their work. He was in a new, loving relationship, hoping to have children and marry.
Everything crumbled. His partner, his sister, his dad, his many friends, all suffered and are suffering. The lives I was living, as a writer, a therapist and the many other labels I might choose, lost all their meaning.
I was in the middle of completing a commissioned book for A&C Black, for their new Wired Up series for reluctant readers.
The jokey, feisty heroine’s voice became inaccessible for months. Nothing was in my mind and body except the shock and the devastation. But somewhere the hard-won life as a writer wouldn’t go away, and I knew I couldn’t give up on my first opportunity to write for a big publisher.
I had to search for the voice somewhere behind the grief that had taken over. After several delays I managed to complete it, I’m not sure how.
I had to treat it as a job that needed to be done, however I felt. Breaking the Rules will come out in February next year. It’s about a girl whose family move to a new area. She struggles to find a way into a new school, and begins to rely on a Facebook ‘friend’ she’s never met.
The voices I’ve used, the people I’ve chosen to carry the stories I’ve wanted to tell in my books, know nothing of the experience of a mother losing her son.
But I have no idea what will follow – if I can write for young people again, how my writing will change, who I am now as I go through this unexpected, uncontrolled and completely unwelcome transition into a new life. I know I will write – I’m beginning on poems about Benn and grief which may become a book – and I know everything I write will be coloured by this experience.
How could it not be?
Maxine's website: www.maxinelinnell.com