Now River of Stones is written and edited and checked a gazillion times, I’m asked, “What is your book about?”
I start to recite the blurb: “Only three stones of power remain and only the eight descendants of Zubin can wield them…”
But they look gravely at me and ask again, “Yes, but what is it ABOUT?”
I humm and haw for a bit and then say, “It’s about schooners.”
“Ah, then you are exploiting the symbolism of a sailing ship as a microcosm of humanity, buffeted by the winds of chance, struggling with an outmoded technology in their quest to achieve a distant goal.”
“Not really,” I reply. “I just that I really like schooners. They are such a beautiful rig in all their many variations. There’s topsail schooners, and staysail schooners, and schooners with as many as seven masts…”
Their eyes glaze over. I start to gabble.
“There are three schooners in the story, and they are owned by an extended family of traders who…”
“Ah. An investigation of the emotional turmoil inherent in the network of familial relationships under economic stress that enhances the competition among siblings and perplexes communication between generations, creating a climate of mistrust, dashed expectations and lasting resentments.”
“Well, actually, no. It’s like this. After their adventures in The Astreya Trilogy, Astreya and Lindey had twins. A boy, Trogen, and a girl, Mairi. By the time River of Stones begins, she’s a young woman of 19, who we meet on the first page…”
“You’re a 79 year old male, are you trying to write from the point of view of a woman?”
Now I’m mildly miffed, so I talk down his interruption.
“…and on the second page, there’s this black guy named Marley, who…”
They don’t quit either.
“That’s appropriation of voice. You’re a white, Canadian, privileged male who…”
But I’m not stopping.
“…He’s from somewhere roundabout Jamaica.”
Neither are they.
“Why aren’t you contributing to the corpus of Canadian literature, writing stories that express the essence of our history and the unique characteristics of our culture and ethos in the …”
That stops me cold. What are they talking about? I really don’t do that high level stuff. So I mumble into my beard.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to sail a schooner in the Caribbean, and I guess so that’s why the story went there.”
“You sound as if you didn’t plan your novel’s architecture with any great care.”
Too right, mate. No plan at all. But before I can stop myself, my mouth takes over and ends the discussion.
“I guess you’re not going to read it, are you?”
In retrospect, I’m just grateful they didn’t ask “Where do you get your ideas?”