March 2015. My mind is a blank. For the first time in years, I have no ideas for a book. I can’t recall this ever happening before. As I was finishing Compassion in 2011, I came across a flyer for an exhibition I’d seen a couple of years earlier in the Musée du Judaisme about Nazi art thefts during World War II, and that gave me the inspiration for the next book. Girl with Parasol was finished in the middle of last year, and since then — nada!
In the beginning I was quite happy to have my head to myself. With mental space to spare, I read some proper books, but now I’m hankering to get back to my normal routine of research and writing, relieved by junk television series and trash fiction (mind you, trash that respects both intellect and syntax is hard to find.)
One reason I have no ideas is because the publishing future of Girl with Parasol is still undecided. My agent is still chasing print publishers, and she has also evoked the possibility of an in-house self publishing procedure (which means I can’t be the only homeless author on their books). I put an early version of the novel on Amazon some months ago, but she made me take it down again to avoid scaring the punters. Print publishers get a large proportion of their income from digital sales. Estimates vary, but it might be as high as 50%. At some point, I will presumably have to grit my teeth and format the book for online platforms. This is not as fast and easy as they claim (Smashwords has a 200-page style guide!), but with time, concentration and Xanax it can be done. But right now everything is in flux and I don’t know what I should be doing.
The other thing keeping the Muse at bay is, paradoxically, Art. I’m selling my husband’s collection of paintings, and I’m sad to see them go. They are American Impressionists and post-Impressionists that he acquired over a period of nearly twenty years up until his death in 2009. They have been stocked wherever there was room, in basements, hallways, corners, and corridors. There were some in the space down by the side of the piano, and more in his brother’s house in Normandy. The whole collection has never been together. There are close to 130 paintings. There has never been enough wall space to hang them all, and now that I’m planning to downsize, there never will be. I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to figure out what we have, what we used to have, and what we no longer have. Since one View of the Pont-Neuf looks much like another, it’s very confusing. Thank God the experts are coming soon to do a real inventory.