Celebrating love, wherever it is found
Elspeth Rushbrook talks about her recently published novel, Parallel Spirals
I’m surprised that I wrote this story. Not that I wrote a novel, for that has been my intention since my teens. I wrote a series then and received interest in publishing it. I’m aiming for 2020. But at the time, I discarded it for a prototype of this one.
What I set out to write as my first publishable novel was very different - or perhaps not. There is a common theme in all my novels, a thicker thread in some. It wasn’t meant to be there in all of them. It was meant to be explored and expunged in this one.
I am always shocked when I see what I wrote 15 years ago about my vision for this book, about what it was supposed to say and do. It was an opinion I’d held for all my life so far, so even talking about it and allowing exploration and not shame and punishment was a liberal and large step for me. By the time this novel was done, so would I be, with this...thing.
But within months, I changed my ideas. No longer was it something to release and relinquish, a crossed wire to untangle, and urge to have indulged before curing myself of it.
What danger and damage I would have done to the world if I had published then!
But I waited and worked for many years. I finished what became a pair of novels and had a process of returning to them after intervals, only allowing myself to change something if I felt consistently about it. They were conceived for the screen from the start, and writing a script helped me to see the story literally from other angles.
Then I returned to my original plan of self publishing, because I wanted to take publishing back into author’s hands. I tried small relevant presses as well as larger ones, and I think agents and publishers weren’t sure what to do with a novel that has God and sexuality in it, and unlike most that have gone before, finds synthesis. A literary story very much for adults but with too much angst and innocence to be called erotica. A story with big ideas, historic and literary, but a deceptively easy read. A story within a story within a story - might that be confusing? Not at all, for the inner stories are films the characters watch and the distinction is obvious. A voice which is its own, but a strange mix of modern and the 19th century classic it subverts.
I have enjoyed creating this work, though it has felt daunting too. It’s not true but it sounds like it is. As Sarah Douglas said of her costume in the Superman films - it makes you think you see me in places you don’t. The narrator and protagonist shares my name and I lend her my voice. I have been through the essence of her journey - not the particulars.
The beginning tells why I wrote it:
This is so rude and shocking that I can hardly bear to write it down but write it I must, for I can keep it in no longer. When I say, shocking, I mean, shocking to me, because it’s about me. As you don’t know me, you probably will think my warning preface is exaggerated. I’m hoping that you’ll tell me that my confession isn’t so unusual and shocking after all.
Well, maybe I’d like you to be a little shocked.
But, who are ‘you,’ anyway? Who am I writing this for?
‘We read to know we’re not alone,’ said a character in William Nicholson’s Shadowlands. I think that we also write to know we’re not alone in the hope that the very things we fear sharing will gain the approval and acceptance of a wider audience — particularly those things which we cannot share with anyone that we actually know.
This is meant to be utterly secret, this notebook I’m starting, but is there always the knowledge, even the desire, that one’s words will not remain forever unseen? There’s a catharsis in writing, a release...the need to express oneself, and even a slightly vain self consciousness — especially where one writes one’s own story. As Matthew Arnold said of Jane Eyre, the author is in dialogue with herself.
There’s almost a mission about writing - there is for me. I hope not only to help myself, but that my writing may somehow encourage and liberate someone else who is going through this. The fact that this confession may resonate with others is comfort enough.
It’s also about being in love with a vicar you can’t marry in church, a secret that risks everything in this world and the next - or will it? It’s about finding that internal Weeble base (remember those toys that wobble but don’t fall down), and that once you know God’s on side, you will no longer be so affected by who else is. Your bus may empty somewhat, but if you drive your true route, you’ll find new passengers as well as those who stay on board and even reboard. Yes there is lots of imagery and cultural references, and yes, it ultimately celebrates love, as Trevor Dennis said in a brave sermon at Chester Cathedral, wherever it is found, and between whomsoever.
Parallel Spirals part 1 was published in 2016
You can read more and purchase a copy from www.parallel-spirals.webs.com