THIS IS THE STORY
THIS IS THE STORY
Got the better half of an afternoon to spare? I know I've talked
about this on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jo.bennett.165 until I and you are blue in the face and my dear readers are saying: 'Oh, no - not this again!' But - I have to. It helps. A lot. It really does.
When it comes to my novel writing, which still causes me more angst than anything, I write out my convoluted, weird thoughts because it definitely helps to get it down on paper - or screen - even though I've completely recovered from thirty years of depression and anxiety - a major miracle.
Therefore, this is the story of my novel.
Many, many moons ago (during the sixties, to be more precise) I was a young girl, growing up. I was/am very creative. An artist and writer among other, myriad, renaissance soul, eclectic things.
I was also growing a fascination for the wild west, particularly for the unconventional, cussin', fast shootin', rough n'tumble gals of the period. And there were a lot of 'em (I've researched hundreds of 'em). I watched The Virginian, The High Chaparral and Alias Smith and Jones. My western had to have humour. I also saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at the cinema.
My dad owned a .177 calibre air rifle and I learned to shoot it through an (open!) window at empty cat food tins and empty plastic washing up bottles. I weren't too bad, either. Dad called me Annie Oakley. I loved that.
I think I must be reincarnated from either Annie or Calam(ity) Jane. Over the years, as my fascination for the west grew, my parents told me about my maternal great uncle, by marriage, who went west to Dawson City in Canada and prospected. His cabin has been restored and is now a holiday let. I have to visit. I have no choice.
Although he married, he didn't have children. Another, paternal, great Uncle Herring, a blood relative, also went west. Apparently, according to family, he was 'burnt out by indians' but survived to head south and joined Sunkist in Los Angeles. Apparently he didn't marry or have children either. Until, in recent years I discovered a sepia photograph of five Herring cousins in Los Angeles. Oooh... interesting.
I have yet to research all this.
To cut an extremely long story a bit shorter, my fascination for the west grew to the point whereby I was desperate to emulate those women and dress in buckskinned fringes and don guns. My feminist leanings had encroached on the west. Eventually I acquired the kit. I was extraordinarily lucky to marry my soul mate who, in the marriage vows, promised to follow me into this madness provided I did the same for him. Fair 'nuff. (He loves dressing as quack Dr.Jack Coltrane, pard to my Kitty Le Roy, whom I read about in a Titbits magazine years ago. I've since changed my persona although I keep her name cuz my gran was Kitty).
I now have a Facebook page: Kitty Le Roy's Wild West Saloon, and website: Kitty Le Roy's Wild West, and I've acquired a number of western pals on route. All this to add to all the other subjects a renaissance soul enjoys. (Writing, travel, the paranormal, cinema, science, boating...), and which I talk about in this blog, Creating My Odyssey, which is my creative mental health blog.
Which brings me nicely to the reason I'm writing this.
Over thirty years ago I began to visualise a story - Alias Jeannie Delaney. My protagonist is a charismatic, devastating cowgirl who's the fastest gun in the west and also bisexual. She's a cowgirl, outlaw leader, jailbird, deputy sheriff, rancher and, finally, mayor. The best way to describe her is to visualise a female Robert Redford. Like that. The closest portrayal I've seen so far is Sharon Stone in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quick_and_the_Dead_(1995_film)
'Look -' I remember Husband pointing out to a passing bus back in the nineties. ' - they've written your story!'
And there was Sharon Stone on a banner on the side of the bus. I was delighted.
I drew loads of images of my heroine in the early days of my marriage, using photographs of blokes as reference, and I found her extremely exciting. Still do. I had to tell Husband, but I was embarrassed as hell. How would he react to my idea of this macho but beautiful woman who did everything John and Clint did, and more? And the fact that she's bisexual? And the fact that, despite everything I tried to do, I couldn't make her less devastating and beautiful? In the end, I decided that that's how she is and that that is one of the reasons for the story - jealousies for the way she is earns her umpteen enemies. This thought made me really excited. I handed my drawings over to Husband and cringed in the bedroom. I couldn't face his possible reaction. Some minutes later he appeared in the bedroom.
'What are you worried about? She's really sexy! Get that story written.'
Problem being I'd been brought up by a family who would not have understood and thought me odd, anyway. I could never have gone into a detail. I was far too embarrassed and still am. I smothered Husband in grateful kisses. Poor man. Which is why I had to write her story. I had no choice.
Then I had the kids. And post natal depression. Twice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpartum depression And that developed into reactive depression. And that impinged on my western hobby and my novel writing, something Husband had been concerned would happen. He was right. I couldn't - and still can't - watch westerns or listen to the music from western musicals without feeling sad. We think that's because my mind - which has a mind of its own - says I want to be part of the film/music piece as my western persona, but can't cuz I'm a woman! Although we're slowly beating said brain into submission, the feelings are still there. I'm seeking help for that.
I struggled through those years but continued writing The Novel, on and off, throughout the years. I was, still am, desperate to get it out, to show the world that women like Jeannie - in some format or other - do exist!
The Novel is epic, charting Jeannie's life from birth in New Orleans in 1865, to 1910 in Wyoming. It's in five parts, and over a hundred chapters. BIG! Husband's slowly chucking stuff out of the attic, and that includes the very first drafts (typed on a manual typewriter back in 1985 with one hand while I bottle fed baby daughter with the other. Shows how determined I was!). Those first drafts are stuffed in a cardboard box and plastic bag. I've peeped at bits of it and thought: 'Wow! I have improved!' Well, I should jolly well hope so! I'll be keeping that first draft (not stuffed in a cardboard box and plastic bag) for posterity's sake.
Three years ago I had my medication crisis. Long story short - again - I had been prescribed with Prozac (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine) which made me suicidal over Christmas.
*(Please bear in mind that medication is a very personal thing. What works for one person may not work for another). By sheer luck and through wonderful neighbours, we were introduced to the brilliant mental health team who prescribed a medication combination (known in the trade as - technical term, haha! - California Rocket Fuel. 'Gimme! Gimme!' I remember laughing at the time) and a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy which does work given the right approach and support. I was lucky. I had both. Together, and with the amazing help of my scientifically minded Husband and a lot of hard work, four years later - I think it must be by now - medication and therapy have literally cured me. I've never felt like this, ever. Even as a kid, I was known as moody Annie in the family. Because of this literal cure (bare in mind these things are very individual. We all react in different ways to such things) I started my blog principally because I wanted people to know that depression is one of the easiest mental health issues to be helped. It's 'simply' a case of finding the right treatment. Not easy.
But - the ol' brain still ruminates and cogitates. In more recent times, desperate for feedback for The Novel, I joined umpteen writing groups on Facebook and started posting chapters to loyal pals. I've had excellent feedback, encouragement, critiques and suggestions. And I'm printing out each chapter for Husband to critique. But, despite the fact that I've typed 'THE END ' many times, it remains a beginning, muddle and end. It's such an epic story, it tires me out, and, when a low mood does descends on me, we know it's connected to the novel. Many things can trigger (haha! Very good!) things. A piece of dramatic music, a film, a song. I then have to get to my laptop and deal with the story. I was concerned about plagiarism (it's such a masterpiece, you see), so I'm being careful. And I must seek psychological help for this before it sends me barmy, because The Novel won't be finished any time soon.
So there we go. That's the story of my novel.