The Brussels Writers’ Circle features members who are hard at work chipping away at various monumental and epoch-making pieces of literature. Or so we would hope. In this new segment, we interview chairperson David Ellard about his current masterpiece-in-progress.
First off, what is it, novel/short story/non-fiction and what is it called?
It’s an epic (and epic-sized) science fiction novel called ‘In Search of Y’.
Where and when does the action take place?
On the fictional planet Nile in the star system epsilon Eridani, about five hundred years in the future.
Which, if any, of Christopher Booker’s ‘Seven Basic Plots’ are you following?
Oh number three, ‘The Quest’, without a doubt. My hero Jen Zo is searching for a bank of frozen sperm which (when unthawed I hasten to add) will allow an all-female space colony to have boy babies (Y-chromosome sperm, hence the Y of the title).
OK, pretend we’re a prospective agent or publisher and you have one sentence to sell us your work-in-progress. Give us that sentence.
The basic bouillon consists of sci-fi opera classic ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert mixed in with French feminist erotic thriller ‘Baise-moi’, then lightly seasoned with touches of ‘Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien and ‘Don Quijote’ by Miguel Cervantes.
How long have you been working on it?
Since November 2011 so not quite four years
A work of great length?
Yep. When I started I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough for a proper novel. Now that the completed first draft weighs in at 183,000 words I rather think I have the opposite problem.
And where are you at now? Where are you going with it?
As I said, the first draft is done but now I have to take the voluminous feedback from the group, twist and tweak the plot, reinvent the start of the novel in particular to make it more exciting and immediate, and go rewrite.
How did the BWC help you in the course of your work?
I got tremendous motivation from the pressure of having to present the chapters as I wrote them. Lots of great suggestions and ideas, and technical advice – my novel is very dialoguey but I learnt loads about how to try and break that up into more digestible sections.
What was the best feedback you got from the group?
Two examples stand out for me. One member told me a certain chapter reminded her of the ‘Three Witches’ scene from the play Macbeth. I liked the idea so much I am going to rewrite the chapter in the second draft with various direct references to that scene.
Secondly, several people told me to reimagine the swearwords current on my fictional planet to give greater authenticity. This I did and now my characters have an argot all of their own. Sadly, this is a family website and I am not at liberty to discuss what those terms are, but readers of my second draft will hopefully raise an eyebrow or two when the time comes.
Who will (the final version of) your novel definitely not be suitable for?
Children. The novel contains various scenes containing sex possibly not in the context of a warm and loving relationship. Oh and lashings of violence to boot.
I can see Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker from the 90s/2000s ‘Rush Hour’ action comedy series playing the hero Jen Zo and his side-kick Olifah Tambo. For the Grand Mother, I was thinking Meryl Streep might like the part if I can give her a weird and challenging enough accent to master.
Thanks and good luck with the second draft!