An Australian author living in Norway

The End . . . for now

It’s done. The draft of Belladonna is finished and in the hands of its first beta-reader. Luckily for me, I get to share it with one of the talented writers I met earlier this year at the Djerassi Writers’ Residence. Susan was my first choice of beta reader not only because she gave meaningful and thoughtful critiques on the piece I took to the workshop there, but because we had discussed Belladonna on a hike around the property, and that talk got me over a huge hurdle I’d been struggling with for months prior. Needless to say, I was both relieved and happy when she agreed to read it.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this was the most challenging book in the four-book series, not least because it is very dark throughout, with none of the comedic secondary characters I often write in for relief. There was no place for these characters in this story, and there is nothing light or comedic in the loss of a young woman’s freedom and strength of mind.

It’s difficult to say whether my own state of mind while writing affected the book, or if it was actually the other way around; in any case, the journey to “The End” has been a tough one this time. The last two years have been rather tough, generally, and I’m not sure whether Sabine’s story was a reflection of that, or whether immersing myself in her psyche made everything else all the harder. In any case, it was probably wise—though not by my own design—that I put this book aside during the darkest months last year and wrote something else for NaNoWriMo.

The real challenge, however, was to find the right place to end this story. Beginning in 1899, Sabine’s story in its entirety spans over one hundred years. I could have brought it all the way up to the present day, or even to where (or when) the next book begins. But that would have condensed important events, and might have overshadowed the other books, giving away too much of what is really happening in the background of those stories. I believe I succeeded in finding the perfect place in time for the ending, but now it has left an unintended gap in time, and given seed to an idea for a fifth book. Alas. Or hooray. I’m not sure at the moment. Maybe both.

The day I knew I was going to finish Belladonna, I put a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in the fridge in readiness. But by the time I typed “The End”, I had no desire to celebrate. Finishing a book, for me, is a lot like giving birth. At the end (The End—har har), I have something beautiful and amazing that came out of me, and everyone else is super excited for me, but I’m just tired and, at best, relieved. I need time for the idea that it’s over to sink in, then I’ll be happy and proud and in love. Right now, though, what I need is a good night’s sleep.

1 Comment

  1. Susan Crispell

    Zoë, this post just makes me even more excited to read this book! I am so honored that you want me to read it. I’ve thought about this story and our hike-talk so much over the past few months and can’t wait to finally meet Sabine and learn her full story! <3

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