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****Catherine Meyrick’s The Bridled Tongue is #210 in the never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.
Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? My most recent novel is called The Bridled Tongue and begins in the English city of Norwich in 1586. It began life as ‘The Unbridled Tongue’ because an important element is the effects of gossip and slander – the work of those with unbridled tongues. In contrast, Alyce Bradley, the main character, has learnt to keep her tongue in check, so much so that it affects her relationship with her husband, in particular.
The firmest faith is in the fewest words;
The turtles cannot sing, and yet they love:
True hearts have eyes and ears, no tongues to speak; They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.
The turtles referred to are turtle doves, the symbol of true love and fidelity to the Elizabethans. But, much as I loved the title, nearly everyone told me it was a stupid name that made no sense so, in the end, I changed it yet again. I went back to my original idea but this time as ‘The Bridled Tongue’. The title reflects Alyce’s character at the beginning of the novel, but is also a recognition of those in the story whose tongues should definitely be bridled. What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I can’t remember the exact date it was so long ago (possibly twelve years). I revise and rewrite many, many times. When I finish revising a draft, I put it aside and work on something else, so months can pass before I look at it again with almost a new set of eyes. I stopped tinkering with it in December 2020 when I started formatting it for publication. Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo? Originally, I did most of my writing at my desk at the front of the house. It is beside a window looking out into the garden and the street. About two years ago my husband started working from home and needed that space. I worked for a while on the dining table but eventually got a table that I have set under the back window looking out into the yard. (Right: Catherine Meyrick in 2008) And while I can no longer watch people walking up and down the street when my mind drifts away from my writing, I can watch the cat or the trees swaying in the wind and notice the changing of the seasons (the garden at the back of the house is much nicer than the front too). So, while I no longer have ‘a room of my own’, the arrangement works quite well. For most of the day I am working at one end of a very quiet house and my husband at the other. What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? When I started out, I had to fit my writing around work and family responsibilities. So, I generally wrote at the end of the day, once everyone else had settled in for the night. But when the muse struck, I would write wherever I could – when I was a primary school librarian, I would sometimes scribble away in my notebook at lunch times, standing at the bench in the library workroom. Now my aim (not achieved every day) is to get up early and write for four hours before even thinking about the day’s problems. I find I can concentrate better moving straight from sleeping to writing. I leave the afternoons for the messy and confusing social media and business tasks.
I start with a general plan of what I am going to write – I have a beginning, ideas for some middle scenes and I do know how the story will end. My first draft is written by hand in a large spiralbound notebook, only on the righthand side pages. I then read through that draft and make notes onto it as well as writing brief scenes and ideas in a different coloured ink. Then I start typing on the laptop. I am a slow writer and each novel has gone through multiple revisions.
Whether I listen to music depends very much on my mood on the day. I find it distracting if I need to concentrate but in the latter stages of both my novels, I listened to a fair bit of early music.
Please include just one excerpt and include page numbers as reference. This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. The Bridled Tongue p.43
‘And if I do not accept his offer?’
‘What future is there for you? In service for the rest of your days, a dependant in someone else’s household. When your mother and I are gone, where would your home be then?’
‘I could stay here…’ She knew she could make a useful place for herself if only given the chance.
‘Alyce. Have sense. As a single woman, even with wealth, you would be prey to every foul-tongued rumour-monger. They would have you a witch, a whore or worse.’ He leant forward, his palms spread on his thighs. ‘You must want a home of your own, children, a husband to keep you safe.’
‘In a perfect world—’
‘The present world is all we have. You have no choice but to consider these offers and decide on one.’
‘Can we not wait? You said we would take our time.’
‘And risk no one else offering?’
‘You think so little of me?’
He jerked his head. ‘If what is offered is good enough, grasp it. If you wait, hoping for a green girl’s dream, you will end up with nothing.’
Alyce, her lips pressed tight, rose from the bench.
‘Think on it tonight and tell me your decision on the morrow.’
‘My decision? It appears you have made it for me,’ Alyce said as she moved towards the stairs.
She slammed the door to the bedchamber and walked across the unlit room to the window. Her arms crossed tight, she watched as night claimed the garden. It was happening again—her father making fine assurances that meant nothing. He had told her, those years ago, it was her decision whether she serve in Lady Faulconer’s household, yet, in the end, it had been made plain she had no other choice. It was no different now. When her father had said they would take their time and find someone who suited her, Alyce had not thought it meant she would be forced to accept the first man to offer. She had imagined she would be allowed time to determine whether he was someone she felt she could respect and live comfortably with. She understood her father considering Thomas Granville, a wealthy man with influential connections. But Robert Chapman? As Isabel had said, who would benefit from such a marriage other than Chapman? Her father would only consider him if he viewed Alyce as a burden to be disposed of as quickly as possible.
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write? And
can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? To get to the emotions involved in a scene, a writer often has to dredge up similar feelings from her or his own past. I drew, in part, on remembered feelings of helplessness from childhood, of being forced to do what I was told was for my own good. But, perhaps, the most intense experience I had of powerlessness occurred over thirty years ago (Above Right in 1990 with her baby daughter) when I was working for the Tax Office. I had just finished studying librarianship and had applied for a library position in another branch. Because the government announced a recruitment freeze the day I was told I had been successful, my manager informed me that I would not be able to take the job. The feelings of anger, frustration, thwarted dreams, and helplessness are still vivid and it was these I drew on when writing this scene. And while this was extremely frustrating for me, how much worse would it have been in earlier times when some women were given no say at all in a decision as important as the choice of a marriage partner.
Fortunately for me, someone behind the scenes was arguing on my behalf and a week later I was told that I could take up the position as it was within the same department.
Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked-up rough drafts of this excerpt? This is a page from several years ago, when the novel getting closer to its final form. There are few deletions but a number of additions. The words and phrases highlighted are those that I need to check because they might be too modern or colloquial for a novel set in 16th century England.
Catherine Meyrick is a writer of historical fiction with a particular love of Elizabethan England. Her stories weave fictional characters into the gaps within the historical record – tales of ordinary people who are very much men and women of their time, yet in so many ways are like us today. These are people with the same hopes and longings as we have to find both love and their own place in a troubled world.
Although Catherine grew up in regional Victoria, Australia, she has lived all her adult life in Melbourne where she works as a librarian. She has a Master of Arts in history and is also a family history obsessive.
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