Saturday, 20 June 2015

Keeping owls out, letting daylight in by Sue Russell

At our house in France we are having a new roof. There's currently no insulation, nothing but slender battens and old slates worn thin by time and weather, and daylight is coming through in several places. It's also porous, and the roof space often shows evidence of visiting pine marten and owl. So despite the eye-watering expense, it's time for major work. As with the garden, we have a sense of stewardship with the old place: we won't have it for ever, but we can't let it go to ruin while it is ours.

Seeing it stripped was a strange feeling, almost like having one's brain laid bare (horrible idea!) When we left, it was covered against the weather with green felt and temporary battens, and seemed fragile and vulnerable. I hope when we see it next there will be new solid panels and new slates, the leaning chimney will be cemented in and all will be weather-proof and secure.  Thinking of it as a figure of my own mind, I wonder if that is what I prefer too: safe, dark, and above all hidden from view. Perhaps I am not alone in this! Veronica's recent post, brave and honest as it was, resonated with these thoughts, and I realised that much of my early work came from places of pain and that the writing of them - even many years later - provided some kind of catharsis. Whether the writing was improved by this, and whether readers may have felt some kind of empathy, I cannot tell. Certainly I see that these days I write with more of an eye on the pleasure of potential readers. Whether this is a good or bad thing, or neither, I don't know. I suppose it's a matter of my evolution as a writer, and I hope that whatever I do is according to God's will and for his glory. He of course knows all the contents of my mind and memories, which is a most subduing thought.

I belong to two writers' groups: one's an ACW local one and the other, which I have been attending on and off for many years, is a mixed, secular group. This year the membership has embarked on an ambitious project: compiling an anthology of selected work for eventual self-publication. Obviously the pieces in it are shorter works, stories and poems. Without this group I may never have written a short story, and my submissions are all broadly secular, while my novels are unapologetically Christian. I find myself wondering how far my faith leaks through the fabric of these stories. Do they have a certain flavour that I can't sense? Could anyone who didn't already know tell I am a Christian? This applies also, of course, to life in general. Is my conduct, speech, demeanour in any way distinctive? I wonder, knowing that many ACW members write in several genres, whether these are questions you also have asked.

Sue Russell writes as S.L.Russell and has four novels available in the usual places: Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth, The Land of Nimrod and A Shed in a Cucumber Field, published by New Generation. The first three are a trilogy, the fourth a stand-alone, and a fifth, in a similar genre - realistic British Christian fiction for adults - is currently being edited and hopes to make its appearance some time soon.

Sue lives in Kent with her husband, at present one daughter, and Rosie the dog. She is an amateur singer and church organist, and blogs at 

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