Firstly, how do you spell ‘tantalising’? Hum. Even though wordpress is flagging it as a spelling error, I think I’ve got it right…
So I’ve been talking for a while about topsecretprojects1-3.3, and the soon-to-be-commenced topsecretproject4, and I’m not gonna lie, while it’s been immensely frustrating not actually naming these things, at the very least I have taken some pleasure from teasing at the expense of… well… pretty much everybody else. But while my capacity for chaos, merriment, misdirection and downright dodges in the absence of hard information is borderline boundless, even this must end, and within a week of this post going live on my blog, all should finally, finally be revealed.
Therefore! And in a final spirit of one-last-tease, let me take this opportunity to say that the audiobook of topsecretproject1 is totally awesome. Although… I found myself being a little hypocritical when I first heard about it.
As a lighting designer, I get a little worried when writers enter a technical rehearsal. The whole point of theatre is that each production brings something new to a text, regardless how old or new the words are, and the combination of different people in a room will always find something new collectively, that as individuals or in a different group, wouldn’t ever have emerged. The words, ‘I’ll drown my books’ from Prospero’s mouth can be regretful, liberating, empowering, reductive, triumphant or self-destructive, depending on the actor who speaks them and the production that encases them. However you occasionally can get still-living writers sat in a theatre saying, ‘yes, well, you could say it like that, but that’s not what I imagined’ or ‘well, yes, I see that you have interpreted it this way, but I think that’s wrong’. At which point directors wince, actors quiver and as a lighting designer, I lock my smile into the attack position and hope no one notices I exist.
Fore-armed with this knowledge, I assumed that I would be far too wise to ever suffer from writer-syndrome myself. Then I heard about the audiobook and while obviously I whooped with glee, because who wouldn’t, I also found myself wondering… what if it sounds wrong? Whatever the hell ‘wrong’ means?
Even if I wasn’t a lighting designer, my old AS-Level English teacher would probably berate me furiously for the thought, with her rousing cry of, ‘the writer is dead, long live the reader!’ My ‘wrong’ is no more valid than anyone else who ever goes near the text, and if anything my having written the book means my word should be the last thing anyone trusts. After all, I am shockingly biased.
All of this theory and introspective angst is marvelously hypothetical, however, since I sat down a few days ago and actually had a listen to the audiobook of topsecretproject1 and was wowed. Actually properly wowed. Of course it sounded different from my imagination – of course it did. But don’t mistake ‘different’ for ‘wrong’. ‘Different’ was totally frickin’ awesome. ‘Different’ was a whole something I hadn’t even begun to realise was in the book, a whole richness that frankly, as the scribbler, I’d totally missed. ‘Different’ was entirely additive, not subtractive. ‘Different’ rocked my world.
Topsecretproject1 has been optioned for film. I assume, as always, that it’ll never happen. As always, I have complete faith in the producers, who are frankly fantastic, as well as having an office above a frozen yoghurt shop which can surely only be a good thing. As always I consider it emotionally and professionally sensible to not tie your hopes to the film industry. If it does happen I will celebrate hugely, and whatever the film is, regardless of how different it may be from the book – and I think it’ll have to be pretty different, to be honest, just for narrative reasons – if it’s anything like the audiobook, that’ll be fine. One of the great joys of a book is that when you read it, it is yours, a world that you can imagine and construct in your head, in your own way, picking out the things that matter most to you. But in the great quest to overcome writer-angst-syndrome, I think the main lesson I’ve taken from listening to topsecretproject1 is that as having someone else interpret these things can also be wonderful, since it adds a whole other way of looking, that simply might not have occurred to you.