It’s the season to be jolly. Only, it doesn’t really feel that way. It’s ten degrees outside, foggy, damp and generally grumpy. So, of course, I’m working on a story set in late summer. I huddle next to the central heating and write about a season when the air is soft and balmy, green leaves rustle in the breeze, and it doesn’t get dark at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. When it would be so much more logical to work on Jack & Gareth’s next book, which is set in January and February and – for a large part – in Northern Sweden.
But that’s rarely how it works. In fact, I seem to have a thing for writing stories out of season.
I remember the first short story course I took many years ago. It was a gorgeously warm summer. The kind where you live outside for most of the time and only go indoors to sleep. So I wrote a mid-February funeral scene for my first assignment, complete with mist and dripping branches and mud squelching underfoot.
This weird juxtaposition of seasons hasn’t really stopped since. Crashed out on the sofa on Boxing Day I write about England in the grip of a heatwave. I wrote the beginning of House Hunt, which takes place in April and May, during NaNoWriMo. I wrote Ghosts, set between Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day, in the middle of the summer. And since Ghosts is full of Christmas food, I ended up craving sprouts in mustard sauce at a time when none of the green things were around.
It seems that my writing brain just doesn’t grasp the flow of the seasons.
Still, I’m determined to finish the glassmaker story with its images of warmer days. Just so I can, for once, write about food that I want to eat right now. In the case of Jack and Gareth’s story we have mulled wine and hot cider, gingerbread, and gorgeous, peppery reindeer stew with buttery mashed potatoes. I’ve only eaten the latter once in my life – in Northern Sweden. And it was so good, it simply had to end up in a book.
I can’t explain why I seem to pick stories set at the exact opposite of the seasonal spectrum to work on. Is it wishful thinking? Hankering after something I know I can’t have right then? Or is it the fear that if I don’t write about sun-kissed, vine-ripe tomatoes and fragrant basil in the middle of winter, or soothing, warming stews and hot wine at the height of summer, I won’t get to experience either one ever again?
I haven’t worked that one out just yet, but I’m going to break that duck and spend the first two months of the new year finishing Jack & Gareth’s story. I’ve procrastinated over this one for far too long and the two deserve a bit of the happy. And if there’s a lot of snow, ice and heartache to get through first, at least we’ll do it while it’s snowy and icy outside.
Image credit: DeepGreen | depositphotos.com