Jane Wilson-Howarth

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Writing a Novel

Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Writing a book (for me at least) is a long, long labour and especially as I’ve never had the luxury of being a full time writer, completing one takes me years. It’s two years minimum generally but some have taken much longer. Often the text will be consigned – figuratively – into a bottom drawer, to molder or mature for years, until I return to it with renewed enthusiasm.
In 2007 when I was lucky enough to find an agent who found a publisher for my memoir A Glimpse of Eternal Snows, I conceived a fictional sequel. Writing in Glimpse about my lower caste neighbours in Nepal, I reconstructed conversations I’d had with them, in listening to and then revisitng their stories I wondered more and more about what life was like for them. I considered whether I could write a novel with them centre stage.
I’ve heard other writers saying they wanted to know more about a subject so decided to write a book about it. This always sounded pretentious to me… coming from a scientific background where only experts write books.
But as I started to pull together my story about loss and recovery and camaraderie and love, I realised that in creating my Nepali characters, my mind went back to conversations and stories I’d half forgotten, and so my confidence in doing my characters justice was strengthened.
So my story evolved. I made my characters experience caste prejudice, sexism, fear of violence and they also faced enormous peril from a catastrophe that now appears strangely prophetic. I worried for them. I was angry for them. I killed for them!
It took me a while to complete the novel and even longer to find a publisher for it.
I was humbled when Delhi-based Speaking Tiger took it. I hardly imagined an authorial voice from the UK would be deemed worthy of documenting a tale that could only be set in the subcontinent. But not only did they publish me but the Indian national press has also been kind about my writing.
Even so, my publisher told me recently that we need to work a bit harder on getting word out about the book – as if writing the bloody thing wasn’t hard enough…. hence this offering on the labour of writing. I hope that this might stimulate more people to read Snowfed Waters, because with very little encouragement, I’ll write another novel.
I have an idea but unless and until Snowfed Waters sells perhaps a thousand more copies, I doubt my next offering will be published.
So come on folks. Post reviews. Tell your friends and I promise I’ll create another sumptuous Himalayan tale for you to curl up with!

Meanwhile here are excerpts from a couple of Indian reviews:

beautifully narrated tale, interspersed with want and waste; horror and humour. Even the grimmest of situations may wrest a smile from the reader, and that is the beauty of Jane Wilson-Howarth’s craft.... A tale of courage and compassion; unlearning the past and embracing the future is magnificently woven that keeps you hooked throughout!
The Tribune (India)

Snowfed Waters is a tribute to the indomitable human spirit and to the human ability to love and bond with strangers over shared tragedies. Thus tragedy doesn’t remain a villain but becomes something that unites people belonging to different places, culture and languages. In today’s world, this is a lesson we all need to imbibe in ourselves, and that is the reason this book is important, something every reader can relate to.
In kitaab.org