Everything about the creative process intrigues me. A colleague once told me that he saves every discarded bit as he works on a book and reviews all of the material with care when he’s doing the last revisions, just to make certain he didn’t reject something because of a mood that he might now find brilliant, just the right phrase, sentence, scene. I thought it an interesting concept until he told me that what he’s discarded by then is at least five times what’s left—so… if the novel is 80k words, that would be 400k discarded words. Intimidating. I save almost everything, early drafts, scenes that I remove but want to save just in case, but I rarely go back to review them, and certainly not at such a late date. I fear the urge to start over.
But once a book is well and truly published, no chance of revising (no no no, don’t remind that with an e-book I could fiddle forever), I enjoy taking a peek. Before I came up with one of my favorite early scenes in A Triple Knot, in which Joan meets Thomas on the deck of the ship taking her to Antwerp, I had introduced Thomas, and Joan’s interest in him, with this scene. So the brief dialogue is Joan of Kent, then Thomas Holland.
“Sir Thomas! Have you caught any thieves of late?”
“Alas, you witnessed my last great moment, my lady.”
Several months earlier, another of the household guards, Sir Roland, had escorted Joan to the market in Antwerp, and as they’d watched the crowd she’d noticed a bold young thief slipping in and out among the chattering folk, growing in girth beneath his loose jerkin as he’d made his way toward a clutch of her escort’s fellows in the king’s household guard. Quietly a small dagger disappeared from one guard’s belt, but as the thief reached toward another his wrist was rendered immobile by Sir Thomas. Joan had noticed Holland before, darkly handsome with a way of smiling that spread slowly from a subtle widening of his mouth until the skin crinkled on either side of his laughing eyes, and a walk just loose enough in the hips to call attention to that part of him a woman tried not to notice. He’d pulled the boy close and spoken quietly to him, words which she could not hear, and once the lad returned the dagger to his victim Thomas had escorted him to the church just beyond, where, she later learned, he convinced the lad to donate his spoils to the church.
Not bad, but I much prefer the shipboard scene in the published version.
In an earlier draft (much longer than the final version), I made more of the similar fates of Joan’s and Thomas’s fathers. It was something they had in common, but such an emotional topic that they wound up arguing about the similarities in this abandoned scene:
Thomas kept telling himself it was the bond he felt with Lady Joan, the tragedies of their fathers, that made him feel so protective of her. Yet that bond was the one thing they had argued about.
She’d been telling him what she’d learned about the various squares through which they walked on their way to the Van Artevelde house. “Father would have enjoyed this city,” she said. “Mother said he enjoyed learning about new places, exploring them.”
She’d never mentioned her parents to him before. “Did you know your father? It is said that your mother was with child when your father was executed.”
“Murdered. He was murdered.”
Thomas wished he could take back the question. By her tone he knew he’d entered forbidden territory. But he had asked.
“Forgive me. Murdered. By the Earl of March.”
Her nod was more of an irritated snap. “It was my brother John who was born after Father’s murder.”
“So you remember your father?”
Her expression softened a little. “They tell me that as I was not yet four years old when he was taken from us I cannot really remember him. But I have a clear memory of my parents singing together, Mother’s high voice carrying the melody, Father’s supporting her from below. I remember how Mother’s head bent over her lute and Father watched her, singing to her. Mother was admired for her voice and her skill with the lute, but she has not sung since Father’s murder. I do remember both of their voices.”
Thomas could not think what to say, how to honor such a glimpse into her heart, her pain.
“And you? What do you remember of your father?” she asked.
“He was large, loud, and had a clever wit. And like your father, he was no traitor.”
She’d reacted to that with a wince only someone watching her as intently as he did, and as sensitive to the slander against his father, would have noticed.
“Like your father, mine changed his mind for the good of the realm.”
“Not the same thing.” Joan made a little face. The small gesture showed him the possibility of disliking her. Perhaps she was not so different from the other Plantagenets.
“I should have thought your experience would have made you wary of judging others,” he said.
“My father was defending his brother. He tried to save him. To do the honorable thing.” Her face had become quite flushed and her breath shallow. She was angry.
So was he. “And not mine?”
She looked away.
“What have you heard?”
“He betrayed the lord who raised him up.”
“He chose his king over the lord who wished to overthrow his sovereign.”
“A belated switch.”
Thomas could not hold his tongue. “As with your father. Until his half brother fell, the Earl of Kent supported Isabella and her damnable Mortimer.”
“He did not! How dare you!”
Her face blotched with anger, she’d been an unlovely thing.
Thomas had growled. “Why did I think I might befriend someone from your house? God’s blood I’ve been a fool.”
She’d apologized later that day, and they’d spoken of it no more. But he’d seen her pride. He should remember that when his foolish hope took hold.
PS: For e-book readers in the US, A Triple Knot is on sale for $1.99 from 22 Feb to 8 Mar 2015!