Wednesday, 25 September 2013
The Conception of The Cityscape Series by Jessica Hawkins
After college, I went rogue. A vacation to Costa Rica turned into a two-year stay, where I lived the life of a drifter. I stayed in one town, but it was somehow both constant and momentary; an endless drip of sunshine, ocean water and surfing combined with a revolving door of other travelers. It was a six-hour bus and ferry ride to get there, much of which took place on unpaved roads. This bus delivered some of the most interesting, open-minded, unusual people I’ve met to date. Sometimes they’d stay a week, sometimes six months. Some of them are still there.
But just as quickly as I’d fallen under its spell, the good life lost its charm. Time did not exist. It was hot and lethargic and the most pressing issue each day was the state of the surf. I was ready for more stimulation, something to strive for.
I spent nine months between Costa Rica and New York City working part-time and living rent-free to save money. In college I’d started a list – 30 things to do before I turned 30 – that only consisted of two things. One of those things was to write a book. With fresh experiences in my rearview mirror and plenty of time, I wanted to explore a kernel of a story that I’d always had in my head.
I never questioned what I wanted to write about. I always found adultery fascinating. It’s the most hateful crime, because it’s against the heart. It’s personal, painful and irrevocable. So why do people do it? In the moment, what kind of person has the willpower to cut through the sex haze – and what kind of person just can’t? Is it ever OK?
I wrote approximately four scenes, a couple of which ended up making it into the final version of The Cityscape Series. The ballet scene in the beginning was originally an art gallery. The very last scene of Come Alive was originally an experiment in third person. Once converted to first person, its essence survived mostly intact, and now it’s an essential core scene. I guess I just needed to have that moment happen, and the story kind of evolved around it.
Here’s a funny anecdote about that time period: I had no idea what I was doing, just that I needed to put these characters on paper. I’ve said before that Anna Karenina was something of an inspiration to me – I’d just read the book in Costa Rica and I always knew I wanted to write about infidelity. As a placeholder, I called the female lead Anna, a young woman with a nervous habit of pulling on her right earlobe. There were only two names I ever considered for the male lead, and the first was David. I knew I wanted him to be a strong personality who wasn’t afraid to pursue the things he wanted. I didn’t read romance. The brashest male I could think of was from one of my favorite TV shows at the time – the hot and sexy Christian Troy from Nip/Tuck. So the other contender was Christian. I’d always loved that name, the way it sounds coming out.
I abandoned the story before I moved to New York. Inspiration to write didn’t strike again until a little over a year ago – about four years after I’d written those few scenes. I didn’t remember much about what I’d written. Imagine my surprise when I opened the file to find the placeholder names I’d chosen: Christian and Anna. Obviously, I had to change them, but fortunately, I hadn’t become too attached. And I believe David and Olivia would’ve won in the end; Olivia Germaine came to me one day, and I never looked back after that.
From there the story just poured out of me. When I made the decision to quit my job and commit to The Cityscape Series full time, the floodgates opened. In the beginning, I didn’t know how it would all end. I thought everything had to wrap up perfectly. The more I wrote, the more flaws I saw in Olivia, and that’s when I knew that this story was far from perfect. There was a lot of ugliness in it too, and that was okay. But there was one thing that never changed about that kernel: no matter what, this would be a story about love. And that’s more or less how The Cityscape Series came to be.
A big thank you to Jessica and the tour for stopping by today!