I saved the file, closed the laptop and began to prepare for the book launch that was to follow several months later – it was nice to have a break from the writing aspect of the book. No more searching for the right adjective, the correct punctuation mark or the precise metaphor with which to convey all the images that continuously fought in my mind to be allowed onto paper.
I had never given a thought to a second book, but other people had different ideas; no sooner was my book available than people were asking for the next one! Interviewers, critics, mentors and my loyal, and growing, fan base all had the same question – what is next? Moreover, and more pressingly, when?
'What?' indeed was the question. This would need addressing before I thought of 'when'.
Did the world need a second book on the life of a pair of woodpeckers that made their home in a Spanish Chestnut tree alongside the banks of the Avonmore River? Certainly, their story was not finished. I had several pages already written, covering aspects of their lives, which never made it into the first book. In addition, of course, their story continued after I stopped writing…there was more joy, more sadness and more amazement in that woodland glade as this enigmatic species continued to establish its beachhead in the Wicklow Mountains. Yes, the Great Spotted Woodpecker still had stories to tell – but not enough to fill a book.
How about the Pine Marten then? Many readers expressed a wish for me to write about this woodland imp. Such an elusive animal…so beautiful…so much a part of the Irish landscape, existing here long before man began to make his presence felt. An exciting subject indeed, and one that, like the woodpeckers, I already had pages written about and lying around on the desk, waiting for an opportunity to reach the world. However, I felt that once again there was not enough material to fill a book.
For me, writing a book is not a linear process. I do not start with ‘Chapter One’ and write sequentially through to the end – I do not have a linear mind. Like a Mayfly flying over a pond, I dip in and out and flit here, there and everywhere. My writing is like a river, it has a start, a finish but in-between is a vibrant seething chaos of ideas, images, tales, and sounds – yes sounds! My mind is full of sounds, all of which I try to convey in my writing.
Sometimes I write a chapter or an account of an event with no idea as to where it fits into the book. My mind tends to have countless images striving for supremacy: woodpeckers on moss-covered tree stumps, Pine Martens scampering across the woodland floor, Otters crouched on rocks, burnt-orange-coloured autumn trees cascading across the landscape, cappuccino-hued rivers crashing through mountain valleys…the list is endless.
At last, this tumultuous tide of ideas, sounds and images has found an outlet. They have been channeled into a direction instead of chaos. A second book has begun…one that will take me once again through woods, valleys and along rivers in my quest. I will meet old friends, this I know, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Pine Marten, the Red Squirrel and the Goosander. For these still all have stories yet untold, but there will be new characters as well: Dippers, Red Kites, Kingfishers, Otters and Badgers to name but a few. I do not know quite where this quest will take me, but I do know there will be a lot of walking, a lot of rivers to follow, many things to see and hear on the way and a great story to tell.
And so on this day, a year after writing the final words of A Life in the Trees, I opened a new file and wrote the first word of my next book…
Let us see where it takes us!