I'm delighted to welcome British author Xavier Leret to my blog today. He has a fascinating tale to tell of how his novel Heaven Sent came about. I read the novel last week and found myself transported to the dark side of Bristol, England, seeing the world through the eyes of an amazing teenager. Read on to see what Xavier has to say about writing it. Then go out and read the book!
You can find my review of Heaven Sent here on Gather.com
Over to you Xavier...
When I began Heaven Sent, it was a eureka moment, not in the sense that I had cracked something profound like light speed or the secrets to eternal life, I just knew that I had started my first novel. I hadn't set out to start it. It wasn't like when I wrote plays. I would announce that my theatre company was going to tour a play and it would be about this or that, and then I would write it. Heaven Sent didn't begin like that. I just wrote a thousand words. That thousand words were about sixteen year old Carlo, except that then he was fourteen. In that thousand words were three sentences where Carlo, a lad from an extremely religious background met a girl called Daizee, whose step father sold her to sailors from out the back of his van when she was just three years old.
None of that first thousand words made it into the novel, even though at the time I thought they were a brilliant thousand words. But what I thought was really special was Daizee and Carlo. Carlo was like everything that I wanted to be but didn't have the courage to be. And Daizee – well I just saw her through his eyes and she was dazzling. She was everything that would scare the hell out a parent. Crude, guttural, hard and yet vulnerable – though she would only show that side to Carlo. But more than this, she understands life. She knows that nothing is what it seems because she has been abused by the upright as well as the lowly.
Two weeks later I had sketched out what I thought the story would be. Then of course the characters decided to take over the narrative. Daizee and Carlo taught me how to write the book. They were very patient. They let me veer off on tangents and experiment in style. They let me have two or three years off when I wrote other plays or made a couple of movies – though they were talking to me constantly – Daizee especially. She was in my ear all the time. When I wanted to give up she would curse me, calling me all sorts.
Just after Christmas a year ago I sat down to finish the story, nothing was going to get in the way. I hadn't touched it for a year and I was angry at myself for not completing it.
Back then I thought Daizee and Carlo would have an equal presence. I wanted it to be equal. It took me half of last year to realise that actually it was really Carlo's story. Not to denigrate Daisy - I had written huge passages of her back story, that were shocking and disturbing – some of it I still think is extraordinary, but it was too much for most readers. And it wasn't very present, it was in the past and a story needs to move forward. I had written her stuff as first person narrative, she spoke directly to the reader and because it was so disturbing it was alienating. Heaven Sent is dark as it is, but to have added in that detail would have put off too many readers. So I/we compromised. Also during this last year I cut all the work of the five previous years. That was difficult.
Daizee's accent is thick Bristolian. Bristolian is almost like another language. I began to experiment with the accent over the summer and found that it made me experiment with her vocabulary. Using the accent gave her a very clear poetry and rhythm. I loved the way that visually it stood out from the page. It makes Daizee appear from out of this world. I think also it immediately makes people prejudiced against her – which is how most of the characters in the book are when confronted by her. She is difficult to understand and her accent will suggest to many that she is trash. But not to Carlo. And because he listens and loves... then perhaps...
About the author.
Xavier has written ten plays and directed numerous others, won a Stage Award, a Millennium Award and was commissioned by the International Festival of Perth to write their Millennium show. He has written/directed two feature films, Mine ('Breakthrough Movie' LUFF 2007) and Unarmed But Dangerous (Anchor Bay 2009). HEAVEN SENT is his first novel. Xavier lives in a quiet spot of the UK with his wife and three children.
Heaven Sent is available where ever ebooks are sold.