Three books (and counting)

My children finished school for the academic year today. Universities have been celebrating graduations. Emails about induction week are starting to circulate. It must be the start of the summer holidays.

This summer, in between childcare duties, I have several projects to work on – a couple of applications, two articles to (re)write, a very overdue book review, some engagement events to prep for. But my main goal, as I keep telling people, is working out what my next book is going to be about. And the problem I have (which is a nice one to have, but no less problematic for that) is an embarrassment of riches. I have three possibilities but probably only the mental space and energy to concentrate on one of them. They are as follows:

1) The book I need to write. This is the book I have promised the funders that I would produce from the Men, Women and Care project. It is a book about disability, masculinity, temporality and the life cycle; about care giving, emotions and gender; about the history of the welfare state, the family and the role of the individual in negotiating the spaces where the two overlap. It will be a very academic book, a book which will use words like ‘temporality’, ‘hegemony’ and even, if today’s reading is anything to go by, even ‘phenomenology’. It is a book that may, eventually becoming the articulation of the most significant intervention I will ever make into the historiography of masculinities and the First World War. At the moment, it is unfocused and under-researched.

2) The book I have promised myself I will write. In January, I tweeted that my resolution for the year was to write the ‘trade’ version of my recent academic book on the history of the RAMC in the First World War. This one, I have done the research on. I also have a chapter and a half in draft, about five different plans of chapter breakdowns and a great deal of excellent advice from colleagues about how to approach this project. What I don’t have, yet, is either a clear, saleable thesis, or a proper strategy for finding myself an agent, which is very much the next thing I need to do to get this off the ground.

3) The book I want to write. For years now I have been talking about doing a project on the representation of trauma in detective fiction – and I still want to do it, not least so I can write properly Ellis Peters’ George Felse novels. But, after talking about the project for so long without actually doing anything about it, I am starting to think there may be a less academic, more experimental book that I need to write first, about Golden Age detective fiction and contemporary novels set in the Golden Age, how both use images of and references to the First World War and what the differences between these two forms of the genre can tell us about gender, memory and commemoration. I’m pretty sure I have the argument for this one, and I find myself writing bits and pieces at odd intervals, but I also need to dedicate a lot more time to (re)reading the works of Jacqueline Winspear, Frances Brody, Kerry Greenwood, as well as some of the more obscure members of the Detection Club if this is going to be the book I really want it to be.

So those are my options, three projects, all of which require time commitment in different ways. Alongside the continuing work needed for the final year of Men, Women and Care, the teaching and administration I’ve agreed to undertake and my family commitments, there is barely room for one of them, let alone all three! So I am looking for advice: which one of these do I prioritise this summer?

(And the ‘and counting’? That would be the book I dream of writing – the detective novel in the style of Dorothy L. Sayers, with a plot based around an ex-servicemen’s association and post-war battlefield pilgrimages. Some day…)

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6 thoughts on “Three books (and counting)

  1. They all sound really interesting. You sound like you are furthest on with the second book & just thinking logically, as it’s the trade book that accompanies the academic version it may make sense to do that first. Have you thought about Pen & Sword for the publisher? They might be suitable. I guess of the others, as you really want to write number 3 you will keep that want so it could be the reward book for getting book option 1 out of the way after option 2, & keep the founders happy.

    • Thank you. Lots of good advice here and via Twitter. For various reasons, Pen & Sword isn’t the publisher I plan for project 2, but I think I will focus on that this summer and try to put in as much research on projects 1 and 3 as I can, with next summer earmarked for one or the other, depending on how things pan out.

  2. Hello Jessica. I landed on your personal blog after following the link you provided to me on Instagram for the Legacies 2019 conference. Let me say I’m very happy I now know of both sites.

    I’m super interested in all of the books you need/plan/want to write but the third and your ‘dream’ especially caught my interest. I’m querying my first novel, which is about an Australian WWI veteran and his wife, who is American and was a WWI nurse at the American Hospital in Paris. His battlefield memories erupt when they attend the 1938 dedication of the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux. Emotional crises and chaos ensue and are exacerbated by events that foreshadow WWII while they spent a few days post-dedication in Chamonix.

    The relationship and characterizations between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Dorothy Sayers’ GAUDY NIGHT and BUSMAN’S HONEYMOON fascinate me and I’ve used those two as a basis for my two main characters, especially Peter’s descent into his WWI memories as HONEYMOON nears its climax.

    Anyhow, that’s my ‘story.’ I’ve been absolutely immersed in everything WWI for five years now and I’m gearing up to write the sequel, which takes place in Sydney, their home, after the start of WWII and specifically after the US finally enters the war in 1941 and Australia endures hundreds of thousands of US service personnel ‘invading’ the cities much the way they did in England (think overpaid, oversexed, and over here).

    All of this is a long-winded (sorry about that!) way of recommending a series of novels I stumbled upon at Waterstones while my husband and I were in London last week: Casemate Classic War Fiction. I brought home four books, one of which is PAGAN by W.F. Morris. I finished it last night and I’m still reeling from the final few chapters. PAGAN was written in 1930 by an ex-serviceman-turned-novelist, and is set in Alsace in 1930.

    I won’t gum up your inbox much more, except to say this particular novel may help your journey to “a less academic, more experimental book that I need to write first, about Golden Age detective fiction and contemporary novels set in the Golden Age, how both use images of and references to the First World War and what the differences between these two forms of the genre can tell us about gender, memory and commemoration.” and “the detective novel in the style of Dorothy L. Sayers, with a plot based around an ex-servicemen’s association and post-war battlefield pilgrimages.”

    Here’s the link to the book https://www.waterstones.com/book/pagan/w-f-morris/9781612004648

    Very best regards,
    Elaine Schroller (@elaineschroller on Instagram)

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