I have been silent but far from idle these past months. The task of interweaving the three new narratives [each one almost as long as the original host] has been teasing and difficult. By the end of April, I began sending this new draft to friends for feedback and copy-editing. Most responses were splendid–full of kindly praise that a writer instinctively mistrusts at this stage of the work. There were few reservations concerning the writing so I had little to work with.
Anne stepped in and gave me plenty to think about. She also prepared a full copy edit for me. I dreaded pages full of red ink but she was reassuring: “I used an orange pen!” she declared.
We met on 30th of May to discuss the new format. It was a long and difficult meeting. By working separately on four disparate elements, it was inevitable that there would be repetition and moments of clumsiness in the overlapping stories. We decided there were too many characters and no one dominant narrative. Anne wanted me to offer her an ‘elevator pitch’–a one-liner that a Hollywood producer would only deign to listen to between floors in a shared lift. I couldn’t offer one. Not then.
For the next two months I ruthlessly realigned the novel. I removed the character of Anastasia (the crazy Russian painter with her constant accusation ‘You are Balzac!’ I liked her) and The Presence (the dark and brooding voice beneath the stairs. I liked her as well.) I blurred two other characters into one and gave the anger of The Presence to the character Rita, to strengthen her personality. I added back-stories to all of the Sarnhi family and used ‘silk’ as an actual and metaphorical means of binding the story together. I found ways of making Maddy more likeable.
When you change a novella into a novel, the sharp and rapid techniques to present characters and places before moving on needed in the former, are unnecessary in the latter. Lunasha was one paragraph in the original story, now, as Anne suggested, she could be a novel all by herself.
By the end of July, somewhat exhausted, I was ready to be read. I sent the new draft to Anne. She responded quickly and reassuringly: ‘I’m well into the revised ‘Godsmile’ and I’m really enjoying it–you’ve done an excellent job on what I’ve read so far, very well done! No wonder you feel drained, you have performed major surgery but it has made all the difference.’
We met on the 25th of July and apart from a few ‘tiny’ details we felt we were finished.
We decided to enlist the help of Henderson Mullin, the CEO of Writing East Midlands, for advice on what to do next but first, he must read the book. I made one more edit and sent off the final copy in late August.
‘The Boy who made God smile’ began as a 32,000-word novella. It was now an 85,000-word novel. I do have an elevator pitch. ‘The Boy who made God smile’ is the story of three generations of a silk family whose business and influence spread from Birmingham to Bangalore.’
We were to meet Henderson at the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham on October 15th. Jaqueline Gabbitas, who has also been supporting us, couldn’t be there but were to meet up later.
Henderson really enjoyed the novel. He described ‘The Boy who made God smile’ as work of real quality. He congratulated Anne and myself on what we have achieved.He has taken over the role of marketing the novel and now I wait for the next and most exciting phase. Will the agents and publishers enjoy what we have made as much as we have enjoyed the making?