When Seduction comes out on Tuesday, readers who buy the hardcover and open it will find, what I hope, will be a surprise.
The endpapers (see below) show my hand written manuscript of the book along with the pen and the ink I wrote it with.
Why did I write 122,833 words in ink?
I love challenges, but to tell the story of Victor Hugo’s experiments with séances in his own voice? What kind of crazy idea had I come up with? Surely it was lunacy to even attempt it.
I don’t have literary illusions. I had just fallen in love with Hugo’s story and wanted to tell it. What fascinated me was how much had been written about his life as a statesman, poet and author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables, but how little had been written about a certain part of his personal life: his dabbling with hashish, his preoccupation with reincarnation and the more than100 séances he’d conducted during a two year period while he lived on the Isle of Jersey.
During my research, I hadn’t once stopped to think that in order to tell the story of Hugo’s seduction by the spirit world, I would have to find his voice.
But there I was. Finally ready to write, sitting at a computer in a very 21st century world trying to conjure a mid 19th genius. For weeks I was stumped.
Then I had a revelation. I didn’t need to invoke the genius, just the man. I had read Hugo’s letters. I knew that the eloquence and brilliance of his poetry and prose didn’t always exhibit itself when he was writing to people close to him. Sometimes he was an extraordinary man saying ordinary things to his family.
That was the Hugo I needed to find try to find. The one who was relating a tale to an intimate. Not writing for the ages. Not trying to be brilliant – just attempting to reason out an unreasonable time in his life that had disturbed him.
But I still couldn’t do it. The cold keyboard, the sound of the mechanical clicking, the icons at the top of the page, the spell check. All of it was a gulf between me and the man I needed to channel. I decided it was hubris to even attempt to write this novel. Absurd to try. And yet, I couldn’t give up.
Carl Jung said that often coincidences aren’t coincidences at all.
One day in fit of frustration I got up from my desk in a huff and managed to tip over a jar of pens. One was an old fountain pen. It rolled and fell on the computer. I stared at it for a moment.
I found a bottle of ink. Filled the pen. Then pulled out a simple notebook and started to write. Not the way I write, on a computer, but the way Victor Hugo would have written over one hundred and fifty years ago. Pen on paper. I began. And as the ink flowed… the words flowed.
I don’t remember writing this book. Each day when I sat down and uncapped my pen I disappeared into the world of the novel. Three notebooks and 122,833 words later, I finished Seduction.
Seduction is the first novel I’ve written by hand. Perhaps the last. Definitely one of the most fascinating journeys I’ve ever taken.
I do very much hope it proves fascinating for you as well.