What Book Are You Afraid To Write?

I was spending valuable intellectual time browsing Twitter yesterday when I came across a big surprise: an intellectually useful article. You don’t often find something intellectually useful on Twitter (well, unless you’re browsing my feed, obviously, etcetera, hashtag sellout) but I stumbled upon it in the usual Twitterish fashion – i.e. by complete accident and despite my best intentions.

What Book Are You Afraid To Write? Why?

I only found this article because it was written and shared by one of my girl crushes. Now, it’s not like I pretend to be focused and coherent most of the time, but I really am going to digress here by talking about my girl crush problem, so you’re going to have to bear with me for a few paragraphs.

As I get older, I find that I have fewer crushes on gorgeous celebrity men, and more and more crushes on gorgeous celebrity women, who kick ass in so many ways they need three extra walk-in wardrobes for their ass-kicking boots.

You could call it straightforward admiration for accomplished women, but that doesn’t explain why I can’t stop looking at photographs of them wearing different outfits or facial expressions, so I’m just going to go with a purely shallow crush here.

This particular crush goes by the name of Caitriona Balfe, an award-winning Irish actress who’s currently kicking so much ass not only on the show Outlander – (Starz, Amazon Prime, More4, RTÉ 2, in case you’re wondering) but also through various other extracurricular activities such as activism, advocacy, the odd newspaper article, and eternally savvy jocularity on social media – it’s a wonder she hasn’t been hauled back to Ireland to be branded with “MADE IN IRELAND” together with luminescent harps on 45% of her rather lovely skin. (Like any small country, we do like to own successful famous people.)

What Book Are You Afraid To Write?

Caitriona Balfe at the 2018 IFTAs. I was at the IFTAs in 2017. WRONG BLOODY YEAR. Image from evoke.ie

Anyhoo, this is a very long-winded way of saying that she wrote an article about a book which was published in the Irish Times and shared by her on Twitter, so I read it.

That book was Grace by Paul Lynch, currently the Irish Times Book of the Month. It’s about a 14-year-old girl during the Famine (mid-19th century, and always capitalised by Irish people, Because Of The Way It Shaped Us) and has had very good critical reviews. I haven’t read it, but I intend to soon – and not just because my girl crush liked it. I love historical fiction of any kind, but the Famine is fascinating in a peculiarly Irish way, and if you’re talking about beautiful words being thrown at it too, I’m smitten.

But what really caught my eye in the article was something Lynch said:

“I spend months, sometimes years, in complete denial, trying hard not to write the novel I end up writing.”

Yep, I thought. I got me one of those.

Lately, I find myself thinking regularly about an historical figure from almost 1100 years ago, whose story has never really been told. Like many Irish figures from long ago, she’s become part history, part mythology, so it’s impossible to know the truth of her, meaning that the narrative possibilities for this character are endless.

What I do know of her – her multiple strategic marriages, where she lived, and the powerful men whose enduring fame I believe was largely down to her – sows the seeds of a story so rich it could possible spawn a flow as great as that of the remarkable Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the Outlander series (see, I can tie themes together even while mixing my metaphors, I swear).

There are also fabulous parallels with the modern age, and particularly women’s role in Irish society, and how that’s changing rapidly, albeit still with far to go. It’s huge.

But the problem is the work. As I said, it’s huge. I’ve never written historical fiction, and anything set over 1,000 years ago is going to involve enormous research. Not to mention that in order to pull it off in a palatable, legible fashion, it would have to be more than good. it would have to be bloody excellent.

What Book Are You Afraid To Write?

The book I am too afraid to write is set right down there. In that bit.

I don’t know if I want to start, in case I fail. Or perhaps I’m afraid if I start, I’ll stop writing altogether, because if I can’t write that, I can’t write anything else either without admitting I failed. Or perhaps I’m just lazy, or tired, or spending too much time looking at pictures of gorgeous kick-ass women online.

But one way or another, I know the book I’m afraid to write is the only one I should be writing.

So I would like to ask you: what book are you afraid of writing, and why?

Tell me. Get it all out here in the comments section, and perhaps by the end of your comment, you’ll have talked yourself into it, and I can claim credit and take a chunk of the royalties.

Sorry. Did I type that? I must have been distracted by stunningly Slavic cheekbones. I do apologise.

I’d like to end by saying that Caitriona Balfe is not my only girl crush, but she at least remains untainted by the embarrassment of having to know about it, unlike my other girl crush.

This also-Irish actress found herself working with my husband, who told her with unashamed delight: “My wife has a massive crush on you!”

“It’s always the women,” she said, shaking her head, and smiling with the world-weariness of someone accustomed to being told such things by husbands who have just mortified their wives.

  44 comments for “What Book Are You Afraid To Write?

  1. July 1, 2018 at 10:43 am

    On a purely biological base with no ethereal qualities whatsoever, I’m tempted to write a book about how I really feel about men. I’m not gay, nor do I have a crush on any particular woman, but I would love to lift the lid on how stupid, selfish and primitive they are and if we removed their aggressive testosterone, the world would be a happier, friendly place. But I just don’t have the courage and it might lose me both my male readers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • therailbaron
      July 1, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Funny. True. But funny.

      Liked by 3 people

    • July 1, 2018 at 1:43 pm

      I can see it, Lucinda – dystopian utopia in the making? Although having said that, I think there’s a market somewhere for a reverse Handmaid’s Tale. We’ve had The Lord of the Flies to cover the cruelty of children. True gender equality will only be achieved when women get to ruin the world too, even if it’s only fictional. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Having spent all of five minutes denying i’m ‘afraid’ to write my memoir, I’ve realised I am. It’s quite a story and I know I could write it and people would probably read it, but… while I say it might break the hearts of some people who are close to me, if I’m honest, I’m more afraid opening Pandora’s box will break my heart.
    Wow, it’s very early in the day for such deep thinking. I need a lie down. Thanks for nothing Tara. I’m immediately going to unfollow you.

    Liked by 6 people

    • July 1, 2018 at 11:10 am

      And there’s a typo in my comment! i do know i should always write the letter i with a capital letter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • July 1, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      I think you’re right to unfollow me, Tric. If I’ve upset you enough to even think about upsetting other people, my work here is done, and it’s time for me to pass on my Crown of Evil to the next worthy person.

      Seriously though – I think I know what you’re talking about, and I know how much that can cost. The benefits of telling your story would have to far outweigh the heaviness of getting there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. July 1, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I am ashamed not of denying your main charge, but only in the sophomoric tactic I’ll deploy in dodging it. I must say for me it was not so much fear of the writing as just a calm, rational refusal to believe there WOULD be any writing. And I got through THAT by realizing (here comes the cheap dodge) that I am not truly a writer but merely a Chronicler (it must always be capitalized because Otherwise Trouble). So I bear witness to a land I have seen but there is not need for invention, or commitment to a particular style, etc. Very freeing. And still working. If I had a book that was tough, it might have been the novel I drafted years back and promoted from trunk status in 2014. I do feel I’m over a hump with that one.

    For you, I don’t know that I can provide useful advice. Writing about Eleanor would be indeed very challenging but I imagine your answer lies in finding that particular angle that seems so self-evident, that right now is grabbing you so hard you might not even recognize it for what it is. If you like (and if my guess is correct) you could check out Ariana Franklin’s most-excellent novel involving her, “The Serpent’s Tale”. Brief interlude to praise the author- my best advice would be to start with “Mistress of the Art of Death” and work right through the series. Dear God, some of the best historical fiction I’ve ever seen. But “Serpent’s Tale” portrays your woman as the villain (sort of) and it might provide useful perspective.

    Plus Ariana has tragically passed from the Alleged Real World, so if you get another girl-crush on her, you’re safe from your husband’s potential jealousy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 1, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      I wasn’t actually talking about Eleanor of Acquitaine, Will, so I will heartily read The Serpent’s Tale (which I think you recommended to me before?) without any fear of being overly influenced by, or indeed plagiarising, an already excellent work! In fact, it’s a book that’s so up my street, I should have read it years ago. I was looking for my next historical epic so I thank ye kindly for a timely reminder!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. July 1, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Glad you asked….because once I finish this romance novel I have now 100% converted into (I hope as good as) a Marian Keyes-level I-love-this-heroine-and-her-life Chick Lit and turn it into my agent who asked me to do it, I AM going to jump into what I’m calling “Headache Pay,” which is loosely fictionalized memoir of my life as a trailing, ex-pat-spouse-in-3-countires-including-Turkey-where-I-was-on-9/11-and-found-out-my-spouse-had-a-girlfriend, with 3 little kids and a serious inferiority complex. I’ve been tiptoeing around a while. You, my dear, have given me the courage to jump into it. (I mean, AFTER this complete rewrite of next year’s #1 Beach Novel, yo).


    Liked by 1 person

    • July 1, 2018 at 1:55 pm

      I can’t believe I actually inspired anyone, Liz, and I’m afraid the shock has made me quite light-headed. Are you sure about this? Did you not mean to say that my customary schtick of defeatist doom and gloom has made you give up all aspirations entirely, to the extent that you intend to devote your life to writing self-help books for people who consider themselves 5lb over their goal weight? No?!

      In that case, I’ll take the praise, and tell you it sounds like a cracking story. Get to it.


  5. annerallen
    July 1, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    I hope you write it Tara! People are always telling me I must write a memoir. But not only am I afraid to write it, I think it would get terrible reviews. My life is way more over-the-top silly and preposterous than my novels. So I think people are going to have to be satisfied with the more logical silliness of my comedies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 1, 2018 at 11:39 pm

      Well, seeing as we’re in an age where the truth is both sillier and far more terrible than fiction, Anne, you may have to wait awhile, until we’re in that long-lost utopia of peaceful boredom. Never say never, though…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. July 1, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    YOU MUST WRITE IT, Tara. Oh, my gosh. The thing about writing is that it doesn’t have to be perfect out of the shoot. In fact, it can be atrocious. That’s why there are drafts, scores of drafts if necessary. That’s why there are no deadlines, because it may take years. I can FEEL your passion about this story, it shines through your words. I want to shake that book out of your head. 😀 Yes, I’m ignoring your question to me and focusing on you because you fired me up! If you have that book inside you, write it. Commit to the story and to the steps and to the time to make your vision a reality. You can do this!

    Liked by 4 people

    • July 1, 2018 at 11:46 pm

      I WANT to do this, Diana, but the contents of my head right now wouldn’t amount to a chapter, let alone a book! I know I’m only making excuses. But writing about a historical figure who genuinely has never been written about involves so much research I just get tired and want to lie down 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 2, 2018 at 4:02 am

        I know. But all you have to do is start. Try a notebook for ideas and research, and do it at your leisure. I know I’m pressuring you, but your idea lit a fire and I want to read the book. That gives you about 30 years to finish. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • July 2, 2018 at 9:59 am

          You’ve got to stop making sense, Diana. I can’t argue with that logic and as we all know, when I can’t argue, part of me bursts into flames. Still, I’m going to open a new notebook today all the same.

          Damn you and your great ideas.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. July 1, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    I think most of our fears around this are centered on what will ‘they’ think … whoever ‘they’ are. Even our inner
    they’s’. Sooner or later we all find whatever it takes to drown out and silence those voices. You’ll find your time and you won’t be able to stop writing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 1, 2018 at 11:47 pm

      Oh, it’s not confidence holding me back, Widdershins. Right now I’m afraid it’s downright laziness!! Sometimes I even get to the point where I think “I would LOVE to read a book about this woman. I wish someone else would write it so I could read it…”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. July 2, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. July 2, 2018 at 9:06 am

    This has given me pause to go and lie down in a darkened room and contemplate my future as a writer, as I’m having enough trouble as it is, without adding more questions to the mix…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. July 2, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    The only book I’m afraid to write is my memoirs. I’d have to be completey honest if I were going to do it at all… and that would set several large and feral cats amongst the pigeons 🙂

    The one I am putting off would, like yours, involve so much research I wouldn’t surface for a decade or two… but I would be perfectly happy digging 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      I think you’ve a clear answer to that dilemma there then, Sue. All you have to do is pretend you’re more afraid of hard work than being vilified by everyone you know, and a mere 2 decades later you’ll have the career-making book you always dreamed of!


      • July 2, 2018 at 4:11 pm

        If half the people I’ve known knew I was even contemplating my memoirs, I wouldn’t have two decades left 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  11. July 2, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    I hope to God you are not preparing to write the same (next) book as me! If you tell me it’s about Aoife MacMurrough I’ll beat your brains out. That’ll give you something to be frightened of! Or I’ll race you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 2, 2018 at 10:48 pm

      Frank Parker wrote a book about Aoife: “Strongbow’s Wife.” It’s on my TBR. If you write about her, Jane, yours will be, too. And Tara’s (if indeed that’s what she’s contemplating). Write away!

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 2, 2018 at 11:03 pm

        Neither a race nor competition needed, ladies. It’s not Aoife. And in any event, to follow on the comment from Will above, believing I was talking about Eleanor of Aquitaine – how many books have been written about her, or with her at least in the cast? A great character can spawn as many stories as can be conceived of… Thomas Cromwell is another case in point. In fact, everyone in Henry VIII’s sphere. And the Irish stuff has a long way to go before it achieves anything like the same volume as those. Stories for all I say!

        Good grief. I think I’m starting a revolution.

        Liked by 2 people

        • July 3, 2018 at 10:31 am

          Oh good. Because if it was a race you’d win by about ten lengths 🙂 I hope you do start a revolution, and what you said about equality in villains is a good point. There must have been a Witch of Belsen in times remote enough to be able to write her as a central character without turning stomachs.

          Liked by 1 person

          • July 4, 2018 at 1:28 pm

            Trust me – I’m waiting for your story, Jane. Hope you get cracking soon!


      • July 3, 2018 at 7:58 am

        Thanks Christine! I had a plot for a story and while I was researching the period, discovered that my story in its broad outline was actual history so I decided to go with Aoife’s story slightly embroidered.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Dominique Blessing
    July 3, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Einstein’s mother is a subject that always fascinated me. That, and a story about Hagar, the mother of Ishmael.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 4, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      Evocative characters indeed, Dominique. It only remains to ask, what are you waiting for!


    • Dominique Blessing
      July 5, 2018 at 3:09 am

      Both characters appeal to me for different reasons. They are products of their respective generations, yet they defy conventions. Einstein’s mother raised an unusual, exceptional child in an intolerant society that prized conformity. Hagar made a decision that in her world guaranteed death or worse. I fear some of the research, but mostly I worry my skill level isn’t where it needs to be to do these women justice

      Liked by 1 person

      • July 5, 2018 at 7:24 pm

        I do agree with Diana says above (whether I can take her advice myself if not is another matter!)… we have to allow ourselves to write a terrible first draft, and worry about fixing it afterwards.

        In fact I think it was Tess Gerritsen who said that she calls her first draft ‘Draft Zero’, which pretty much sums it up…


  13. July 24, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I dunno, it’s not that I don’t dare to write, it’s just that I start and then I decide to sort out my junk mail instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 24, 2018 at 11:38 pm

      Depends on what’s in your junk mail, I suppose. There could be the makings of a VERY good book in it, for instance.


  14. October 1, 2018 at 2:43 am

    A very small number of people know the genesis of my WIP; I hope they forget it, or are embarrassed enough to never talk about it. Obsession is a slippery thing, and it depends how your characters BEHAVE with it that is important. Obsessions are a dime for ten; involving characters who desperately fight it, few.

    Liked by 1 person

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