The other day an older friend asked about my writing. My answer was brief because it’s complicated. Not because I do it from three to four a.m. Not because many of my older friends don’t know what a blog is. No, it was complicated because my next book is about a movie few Americans know, especially many of my friends. I really don’t know many horror fans. Academics, yes, but normal folk, no. This is a little odd because statistically most adults like horror. I feel I always need to explain why I bother writing such books. (There is a reason and there’s even a book I’m working on to try to explain it.) It’s easiest, in such circumstances, just to say “I’m keeping busy with it.”
The fact is the draft of my book on The Wicker Man is done. It has been for a few weeks. None of my published books are the same as their drafts initially were. (This is the difference, say, between a dissertation and a first monograph. Let those seeking advice take note.) The draft follows the approved proposal pretty closely, but I now kind of do research backwards. Or at least while the book is in process. Unlike a professor with a library and sabbatical and summers off, I find my sources as I write. My books, despite what might seem a narrow focus, range pretty widely. My reading goes in directions not even I anticipated when I began. Ideas lead to other ideas. Soon there’s enough of them for an entirely new book. So I’m reading my draft and reading other books and creating the Frankenstein monster that will be a codex.
Every time I reach that point where I say, “this will be the last book I need to read for this project,” only a matter of days later I find another. And another. Book writing involves both creativity and distillation. It takes a lot of books read to make one book written. All writers know that. Some have trouble knowing when to cut off the research because, and this is a truth for all of life, there’s always one more. The very month of my doctoral defense a new book on Asherah was published. The external examiner brought it to my viva. Obviously he knew that I couldn’t have read it by then (it had to be in German, of course). It ended up on my bibliography. So I plod along with my book already written, but not yet begun. I said it was complicated.