If Idylwilde, my first completed novel was all first love heartbreak and drama, Family, Genius, Species is a more of a mature relationship-- a marriage, if you will.
I went into the thing with my eyes wide open. I knew it would take work, a lot of work. I was no longer afraid to erase whole chapters or cut my darlings from the page with a hearty punch of the backspace. I was "big picture" in my approach, I planned. (Well, I planned more than I had in the past anyway).
You see, in its first incarnation FGS was a mother daughter story. Zorro, my one-hit-wonder, cool-in-his-own-mind main character was a minor part of the original plot.
I wanted to explore the troubled relationship between Carla (mom) and her daughter Dawn. I thought the plot might work its way through the social service system, and so I talked to some social worker friends (research!) and spent many long commutes developing the plot. (Yes, this is often what I do on the 2 hour plus drives.... really. It's fun.)
When I thought I knew where I was headed, I wrote my first few pages. And THAT's when the trouble started. Zorro. my bit character, comic relief in the intense mother-daughter struggle, sort of took over.
What's more, I really liked what happened when he did. I discovered that he had his own agenda and that IT would drive the plot far better than all that "Women's fiction" social service stuff (Not that I have any issue with these things-- remember, that 1st book was Oprah-esque and all).
I wanted to sort through some pretty interesting ideas: the role of destiny (If we are so much ourselves do we have any real choice?) and How does a person sort of shapes him/herself over time? And love I wanted to explore a platonic, parental sort of love. And there's the interesting difference between how we think of ourselves and how we actually are in the world. (I don't know about you, but I am 5'9", thin brave and wildly amusing.)
Anyway, Zorro turned out to be the right man for the job.
Besides he's cool. Or thinks he's cool anyway.
The mother daughter stuff is still in there of course, along with the natural history stuff and the coming-of-ageness. Also there is a road trip and a pissed off teenager...
And yes, as in any mature relationship, I know I can plug away at it-- fully aware of the flaws and foibles, working towards that soul-mate perfection that would make the novel good enough.
As for Sweet Marie, the white-handed gibbon, that just happened. I have no idea how. You writers out there probably know what I'm talking about. The rest of you may be baffled by it.
I'll have to post more about this crazy process that can produce a full-grown gibbon out of thin air-- one with a goofy, Dylan-inspired name no less! But that's for another post. Suffice it to say that if you ARE baffled, you are not alone in that. My incredibly tolerant husband often feels that way too.