What to Write Next?

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By the time anyone reads this, I will have said my goodbyes to Cambodia for now, and will be setting off on my book tour around SE Asia. First stop, Bangkok. So it seems like a good time to take a moment and reflect on this trip in Cambodia, specifically how it will pertain to my writing.

In the past, Cambodia has led me to write prose, almost exclusively. But slowly, some Cambodian-inspired poetry has started to bubble up to the surface, and I’m discovering that there is a mine of poetry inside me still needing to be tapped. If nothing else, I find that interesting and look forward to see what that really produces.

But the bigger surprise is my new plan about writing Cambodian-based novels. I have always worked on the assumption that I was writing a trilogy. The first two-thirds of which, A Clash of Innocents and Out of the Ruins, are now written and published. I have even sketched out the plan, the plot, the characters, the aim of what was to be the third and last novel in the series. I have the trilogy title and everything. When Out of the Ruins was published and I was discussing how to word some promotional material, I started to talk about “the trilogy”. But my wise publisher said that I shouldn’t call it a trilogy. Call it a series. You never know. So I tucked that idea into the back of my head and I boarded the airplane. Over the past two months, though, that bit of advice got me thinking. I had always worked on the assumption that three novels about modern Cambodia was probably enough. I can’t spend my life writing about Cambodia, can I? Not enough people care about it. I should branch out. But then other people, readers, started to say they wanted more, too, and as soon as I was given that “permission,” yet another story popped into my head. Over the past two weeks it has been haunting me, as proto-novels tend to do. So now I have notes about what will come next, the third novel in the series, not the last, and a different one from the one I had outlined before. Lord knows, there are endless stories to be told about what is happening over here, and still I seem to be one of the only people telling them to an international audience.  So, here I go again…

When I am in London, I find myself overwhelmed by the business of writing, and I don’t only mean promotion and sales. Despite what I might tell a student, I worry and think about my own marketability and whether that should affect what I choose to write about. But then I come to Cambodia and I know that my heart and my inspiration still come from this place and these people. Maybe I am cutting my own throat as a writer. Maybe by focussing on one place and one set of stories I am limiting who I might be in the world of writers and how large a readership I might have. But I think I will take the advice that I know I would give to any writer. Write what is in your heart. Tell the stories you need to tell. That will produce the best work.

 

I joke that I have a small but devoted readership. It seems not that many people want to read about a country so far away, so completely different from their own lives. Well, I guess I just have to hope there are enough travellers, armchair and otherwise, to make the books still publishable. But as far as they are “worth” writing or not, and especially by me, well….this trip has made that decision for me. So on to not the last in the trilogy, but book three in the series. I hope I can keep your interest. And if not, I hope others will take your place.

 

That’s me, signing off. See you in Thailand.

The First in the Cambodian Series
The First in the Cambodian Series
The 2nd in the Cambodian series
The Second in the Cambodian series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third in the Cambodian Series
The Third in the Cambodian Series

 

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