Monday, August 24, 2009
Regrets, I have but few...
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
My husband and I went and saw the inimitable Jackson Browne last week and it's put me in a reflective frame of mind. Of course, the fact that Tim and I were some of the youngest fans in the audience didn't help - but Jackson Browne has provided a very strange soundtrack to our lives. When I first met my husband he had one of those early cool portable CD players (hey, it was only 1987!) but to say I was aghast at his CD collection would be an understatement - I mean who else had The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne alongside Madonna? My tastes ran to New Order, the Violent Femmes and The Smiths so I was literally gobsmacked. I grew, however, to love Jackson Browne (The Eagles I'm afraid had to go...) and my husband's love of his music provided new insight into him - who knew the preppy guy had an angst ridden 1970's soul?
The concert has made me think about the nature of regret. I have to admit, even as I face down the dreaded four-zero in a few months, I don't really have many regrets at all - and the ones I do seem pretty trivial in the context of my life. I certainly wish I had pursued my dream of being a writer earlier - but then I wouldn't be the writer that I am now. I'm a strong believer that you stumble upon your own path - and I'm supremely grateful of the path I managed to find.
That being said, I do wish I'd been more savvy about the publishing industry when my first book came out. I would have definitely fought harder to change the cover for the hardback of Consequences of Sin (see exhibit A, on right). Although the paperback cover is fabulous (see exhibit B, on left) I still think the cover for the hardback irrevocably hurt sales and may have doomed me to Barnes & Noble (not to mention publishing) purgatory...
But it's hard to have a clue when you're first starting out - right??
I'm sure in a few years I'll no doubt wish I had known now what I will know then, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over regrets (it is pretty pointless, after all), but regret, as Jackson Browne so often writes and sings about, is an important emotion. It is one that defines and shapes us, and when creating characters I think it's important to explore not only their loves, hopes, and fears but also their regrets. In many ways our behavior is guided by regret in subtle but crucial ways - and I love getting under the skin of my characters in this way.
So what (if any) regrets do you have regarding your writing? Do your characters carry some of those same regrets? Do they have an angst ridden soundtrack to their lives or are they at peace with the path they (or rather you, as a writer) have chosen for them...?