Sure, there were loads of people the world over that I would immensely adore to hold under my inquisitive mind, but most of them seemed so out of reach… either because they were quite literally out this world, in more ways than one, or because other reasons conspired to keep them away from my quill.
Fact is, it was deadline day minus three days, and I lay awake at night, wiping the sweat from my brow. I tossed and turned in bed, and when my phone rang, I only wanted to smash it against the wall.
I picked it up, though, as much out of a sense of duty as out of a sense of curiosity, and saw that it was my editor calling me.
“Damn”, I thought, “She’s going to ask me about the deadline.”
“Sam”, she said, “about that deadline…”
“Yeah, about that, Maureen… I have this great lead to a story that’s going to pan out tomorrow… if that one doesn’t work, I have another angle into a story that’s just so amazing… I can’t even tell you about it’, I lied.
“You are such a liar, Sam. But look, even if you do have any of those crackers, I want you to backburner them. Boy, are you going to love me for this or what?”
“What, exactly, are you talking about?”, I questioned her.
She took her own sweet time to answer back, and I could hear her sucking on a cigarette for a long while, clearly savouring her time.
She drew her breath then said these two words : “Jon Snow.”
“Jon Snow, the writer?”, I retorted. “What about him?”
She laughed, maliciously, and said. “I’ve got him. After all these years, he finally agreed to do an interview. And I’m sending him your way.”
My jaws dropped to the floor. How I went from having no story to potentially having the greatest scoop of my career, I couldn’t imagine.
“Sam? Sam, are you there?”, Maureen’s voice asked.
“Yeah…”, I trilled, like a schoolboy.
“This is… Mo, this is going to be huge… if I get this right…”
“Oh yeah”, she said. “You do this right, and I see something that begins with a ‘P’ and ends with a ‘ulitzer’ for you”, she beamed.
Sam Wood : And so here we are, just the two of us, a log crackling merrily on the fireplace… My first question for you would have to be ‘Why’? Why now, after all these years, did you finally decide to give an interview, Mr. Snow?
Jon Snow : Call me Jon. Well, Sam… you don’t mind me calling you ‘Sam’, do you?
S.W. : Not at all.
J.S. : Thanks. I thought that the time was right, the time was now. I also wanted to make it clear that though reclusive I may be, I am not some misanthropic beast, as so many of your contemporaries chose to paint me.
S.W. : Ok, fair enough, but you’re telling me that this didn’t come from the fact that your most notorious novel – ‘One Nation’ – has recently been adapted to the theatre? And that some serious allegations have been made as to whether you really wrote the book?
J.S. : … (Strained silence. Gazes at the fireplace for a few minutes, gets up and pours us both a glass of brandy, each.)
J.S. : Well… the movie was ok, I guess. I always knew that it would be extremely hard to properly translate it, to make it as faithful to the book as possible. Did you know that every time they had a script they sent me one round, so I would say if I liked it or not? But in the end, sure, it was good enough. The casting may have been off in some places, but… yeah, it was entertaining. As to the rumours… I know where they came from… I know who spread them, and why.
Here… (Gets up again, fumbles in a drawer for a while, looking for something.)
Take a look at this.
S.W. : No… is this what I think it is?
J.S. : Oh yes, my original manuscript. And see those shelves over there? I wrote over a dozen bibles, detailing everything about the story, each and every character and scene was fleshed out even before I even started to write the story itself. Those lies that were put out… well, I attribute them to lesser writers; to those who dwelled in mediocrity from the outset. And they know damn well who they are.
S.W. : I’m not sure that your tirade just now proves anything at all, Jon. But I will confess to being completely and utterly amazed at what is surrounding me right now. All around me I see book upon book upon book… many are, as you have claimed, bibles for your books. But now… riddle me this : you are not, by any standards a proficuous writer… I mean, your entire work consists of the novels “One Nation”, “Future Perfect” and the many times adapted to the stage novella “When it comes it’s so, so disappointing”… and yes, I do know that both novels were international bestsellers, and your novella earned widespread accolade… but why was that, exactly? Why, when you clearly have so much talent?
J.S. : Well, you do know that I was accused of being a one trick pony after my first book came out, right? I was cheered by some, and jeered by many more. Had I not been steadfast in my purpose, I might’ve buckled under the terrible pressure those awful critics put me in. I would have quavered, I would have stopped dead on my tracks if only I paid attention to any of those bloody stupid jokes they made about me.
J.S. : (Laughs)
J.S. : But the joke, you see, was on them…
S.W. : How so?
J.S. : Truth is, I had already authored a book well before ‘One Nation’ even came out. It’s a little book called ‘How it ends’.
S.W. : Come now, you have got to be kidding me… you claim to have written the cult classic ‘How it ends’? Now, Jon, you know I have the utmost respect for you and for your work, but to make such a claim… it’s so unlikely a claim, that you’d have to have hard evidence to back this up.
J.S. : (Smiles enigmatically. Gets up once more, fumbles for a number of minutes in various drawers, then produces a sheaf of papers.)
J.S. : There. It’s all there.
I study the papers for a while. I find, among others, a numbers of hand written chapters, full of annotations, and a contract with a long gone publisher, agreeing to publish the book ‘How it ends’, clearly stating the fact that it had to be published under the pseudonym “Lloyd Llewellyn”. This changes everything, so I decide to change my strategy, too.
S.W. : Talk to me, Jon. Why the need for such secrecy? Surely you must know what that book means to so many people…
J.S. : Does it? I wonder. Well, now I’m sure people will have an opportunity to know what I really think about it, eh?
S.W. : Tell us, then.
J.S. : Sam, to tell you the truth, I haven’t thought about it in a long time. For me, it was like I wrote the damned thing lifetimes ago. It’s in the past, you know? But it was something that I felt I had to write.
S.W. : Where did that story come from? I ask this because it’s something so different from everything else you wrote… so why write that story?
J.S. : Basically, it came from all the unhappiness I sensed and saw every single out on the streets, you know what I mean? I saw all these disappointed people just drifting by, gripped by an invisible fear… the fear of loneliness. So one day, as I was going out of the subway, I see this woman, and let me tell you, I never saw someone as miserable as she was. I just hugger her then and there, gave her this heart-warming big hug, and call it what you will, but I felt her sadness too.
S.W. : What did you do next?
J.S. : Oh, I just wrote, and wrote. And I kept on writing. And in the end, I saw how much good it did me : it taught me how to write, what to write, and what not to write.
S.W. : So, was the end result to your liking? Did you do what you set out to do?
J.S. : Well, by no means I meant to open the hearts of minds of anybody who read that story, no. But you know, I was so young, so much younger then. It was written fifteen years ago, did you know that? But ultimately… heh. There was this song I really loved way back when, and the bloke who sang said something like ‘don’t get sentimental, it always ends up drivel’. And that story? That was me getting sentimental. And look how it ended up. But I digress…
S.W. : Oh wow… so, how did it get published? Is there a story to that as well?
J.S. : Yeah, there’s a story behind that. But let me tell you, it’s not a particularly droll one, nor is it meaningful. My ex-wife, Louise… back when we were dating, one day she was rummaging through my stuff… spring cleaning, you know? And she just finds some of the stuff I had written, and she started reading it. So one time I caught her in the act, and she said to me that it should be published. Now, I never wrote that story with the intention of ever publishing it, it was more of an exercise in style. But she had this friend who worked for a publisher, and that got the ball rolling… the rest is, as they say, history.
S.W. : Walk me through the story for a bit… it’s a memorable story, for me at least, and what intrigued me about it, and now doubly so, is that it’s a story with such a small cast… where did those characters come from? What archetypes did you use?
J.S. : Let’s stir these little grey cells, shall we? Well, Jon Snow was obviously me, right? I mean, he was the person I wanted to be, and his virtues were the ones I desired for myself. He was me, sure enough, up until his final choice. But then… I was also Sandor / William for a while… the kind of person he was, all that womanising… that was all me. But the drinking, no. That came from an old friend of mine, James, he used to drink himself stupid every single day for God knows how long. And those talks Jon has with him? Sure and they were talks I myself had with him years and years ago.
S.W. : I did not know that. I can see now how this novel can be yours, though it is highly distinct from what you later wrote. I base this assumption on the fact that you always had an uncanny knack for writing strong female characters. What can you tell me about Natalie and Marcia?
J.S. : (Silence for a while. Closes his eyes briefly, then opens them, misty eyed.)
J.S. : Ah, but do you know, even though I based Marcia on a true person, she was even called Marcia herself, I never actually met her? She was this girl I used to see every night in this club I used to go, and she used to do these amazing hair flips… I guess I was sort of in love with her for a while, and when I started to write, she just came to me as a natural for the story. Of course, she never even knew about this, and why should she? After all, I only used her physical traits, and none of the personality she might’ve had.
S.W. : And Natalie? Was she based on a real person too?
J.S. : No.. and yes. You see, she was based on a few different girls I knew. The fact that she was a nurse came from my cousin Sara, who was very close to me when I was a child. The fact that she uses braces and is named Natalie came from this girl who worked with me also called Natalie. But physically… yeah, that part came from my ex-girlfriend Sara… except she wasn’t blonde, no. That came from another girl I used to know when I was younger, Katina. So, out of that amalgam of people came Natalie… and what a joy she was to write, I tell you. Every single word she said… all those little lies… the way she moved me… it was sheer pleasure.
J.S. : But the thing is… I wrote that story in one of my lowest points. Life wasn’t that good for me, you know? Plus, I also had the basis of what would turn out to be ‘One Nation’ floating around my head for the longest time, and the fact that that particular story managed to get out first stung me a bit. In hindsight, I can see how much better for me it was that I did write it first. It was a true learning experience for me, that was.
S.W. : One thing that always intrigued me is the allusions you make to the year 2012… is there a particular reason for that?
J.S. : You mean you don’t know? You have no idea what it means?
S.W. : It was ten years ago, sure, and I can’t recall anything important having happened back then, so I’m kind of drawing a blank there. And if I am now, you can probably imagine how readers felt over fifteen years ago…
J.S. : I will shew some light into this. According to the Mayan belief system, December 21st 2012 was the date they predicted for the transition of the current Creation world into the next. They actually thought that the world was going to end in 2012.
S.W. : Right, you used the same ideas for ‘Future Perfect’.
J.S. : That’s right. But in this context, I used it as a metaphor for the cycle of relationships. Everything ends. That’s called Entropy. What I wanted to say was that the world ends every day in the tiniest ways for everyone one, until the day it finally ends for them personally. After all, the world does end for lots and lots of people every day, right?
S.W. : Point taken. Now… I number among those who feel that the story’s ending… well, the way it ended for all involved… it wasn’t very pretty, was it? There was so much mirth, so much unhappiness… from what you’ve told me, you wrote it because you felt the sadness that surrounded you. Isn’t writing a miserable story an antithesis to that?
J.S. : I wrote about life, Sam. And life is, more times than that, ugly and unfair. But I guess I see what you mean. After all, It didn’t end very well for Jon and Nat, did it? And as far as I recall I really wanted to people to know how it would end for them long before the story itself ended.
S.W. : Yeah, I got that. What can you tell me about Will’s ending? It’s not very clear how their story ends, is it?
J.S. : (Beams at me. Somewhere deep down I get the feeling that I’ve just taken the bait that was so cleverly laid out in front of me.)
J.S. : See that shelf over there? Go and get my copy of ‘Future Perfect’. Be careful, though, it’s a first printing, and it’s signed by the author.
I smile, knowingly. I get up, reach for the drawer, and take out a hardback edition of the book.
J.S. : Good. Now be so kind as to read the last two pages of chapter 27, please.
I read in silence. The cogs in my brain whirr, and I see something, a light of the end of the tunnel.
S.W. : How is this related to what we’ve been talking? Surely not…
J.S. : Understand, when I wrote ‘Future Perfect’? I never felt so good as I did when I was writing that book. The story itself came so seamlessly to me… all the pieces just fell into place, words flowed naturally. I felt… unbeatable. To quote Albert Camus, ‘Within the depths of Winter, finally I learned that within me there lay an invincible Summer’. I was so happy back then, that it showed… Ah, those were the best days of my life.
J.S. : (Looks back to the fireplace, as if looking back on a memory from the past.)
J.S. : You see, I wanted them to have a happier ending. But their song had already been sung, right? So they lived on in my mind, and when the time was right, they came back, and this time… this time… it was good.
S.W. : But their story, Jon… The real story. How does it end?
S.W. : Tell me how it ends.
J.S. : You already know how it will end.
"Now you’ve seen his face
And you know that there’s a place in the sun
For all that you’ve done
For you and your children
No longer shall you need
You always wanted to believe
Just ask and you’ll receive
Beyond your wildest dreams."
DeVotchka, How it ends