Today is quite a big day for me.
What can I say? I’m proud, I’m exhausted, and weirdly surprised as well. This novel started off as one of many stories that I was writing in my free time, back when I was at my first job.
After being laid off and traveling a bit, I decided I had to finally sit down and write Something Big. I had always fancied myself a writer, but finishing something long, let alone a full-size novel, was something that I always pushed into some indefinite future. All of a sudden I had the time and energy to do it. All I needed was perseverance and a good story.
Ava Ström was NOT a good story. It was something I had started at random, a long time ago, without any real intention of actually finishing it. But it was the only thing I felt like writing back then, and I couldn’t afford the time to develop something new.
I had a conversation with my brother while we were going for a walk in the beach in a little town near Málaga. It went something like this:
ME: Man, I have to write a book. Right now. Or admit to myself I’m a total fraud. If I can’t do it now, with all the time in the world, I’m never going to make it.
BRO: Cool. So do it.
ME: The problem is, all I have is this stupid story about this superclever, superhot blonde who solves crimes and gets involved in dark plots and whatnot.
BRO: Cool. Write that, then.
ME: But you know, I always wanted to write something very clever and deep and important and Literature. But right now, all I have is this Ava girl and her crazy adventures.
BRO: What about you write something fun and fresh? And what’s the problem with being a bit silly?
ME: (long silence) Fuck it. Might as well work.
It did work. Or rather, I worked. That was 2009, the year I finally learned writing was work, and a lot of it.
I rewrote, rethought, redesigned. I learned how to do plot and structure. I learned to cut dialogs to size, no matter how witty or interesting I thought they were, when I reckoned they were not really doing anything to move the story forward. Same goes for whole scenes and subplots. I killed off characters. I deleted tens of thousands of words.
Sometimes I even had fun doing it. Sometimes it was slow and agonising and I was up at 3 am because I hadn’t done my daily word quota, drinking my parents’ Nespresso and wondering why the hell was I giving my best efforts to a cheesy, rambling story that nobody was ever going to read, let alone buy.
And one day after I sketched a new chapter and bullet-pointed all the things it did for the plot, I caught myself thinking “He, I’m an actual writer now!”. The realisation that writing a novel was something that could be done, designed and perfected, as opposed to something that happened to you, if and when the winds of inspiration happened to blow in the right direction, and only for as long as they did… That hit me like a truck.
I pressed on. I finished Ava Ström. I let it sleep on my hard drive for years. My urge was finishing a book, and that I had done. I published other things and was proud of them.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that I revisited Ava Ström. Guess what, at the prompting of my brother and my girlfriend. Guess what else? It’s actually a good story. It has next to nothing to do with the initial idea (or lack thereof). A few years ago, I turned that initial, silly notion into a big, 135K word story that actually works. It has its imperfections, for sure. I would write it radically differently if I was to write it nowadays. But it works, it’s fun and fast-moving and sometimes moving. It’s not the cringeworthy wreck I considered it back at the time.
So I gave it a chance. It’s not really me talking, not any more. It is, as all books are in a way or another, a voice from the past. It’s a past me, with whom I disagree at certain points, but Victor From The Past is nevertheless a worthy, entertaining voice. I feel a bit more like an editor than an author, in the way I feel identified as well as detached from the narrator of Ava Ström.
I am happy about publishing it, make no mistake. Some Víctor in an alternate universe is still walking up and down that beach, still wondering if he has a book in him. I’m doing it for him.
Thanks for listening. Now, if you want, go listen to him. Give him a chance.