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The Image of Christian (IOC) is almost as difficult to write about as it was to write. Before it went to a publisher this novel went through five complete rewrites, and at least as many revisions. The original manuscript ran over 300,000 words. After four rewrites I got it down to 250,000 words. Then I finally realized one of its problems was that, structurally, it was two books. IOC got the next rewrite; the second half became Christian On Top.
IOC was very much an exercise in learning to write. I'd always fancied myself a writer, saying "some day" I'd get around to it. Couldn't be that difficult, could it? Well yes, it could be, and is. Some people are probably born with the talent, just as some people can hear a piece of music, sit down at the piano, and play it. But I'm not Mozart.
At university there were a few of us who half-joking said we would write "the great Canadian novel". One is indeed a published author; she writes spare, introspective works and is greatly respected in the closeted world of the Canadian literary community. Unlike her, I'm not a literary writer (I've been accused of it and I deny it). Another died young, of misadventure--he probably had the most promise of any in the group. Another, who remained a good friend until his end, passed from this world at the age of 41, dead of natural causes.
Soon after that I started writing what became The Image of Christian.
To say Keith's death was a shock would be understatement. Without eulogising, I'll say he was one of the most vital, capable and ultimately alive people I've ever known. Whether or not he could have or would have written "the great Canadian novel", we'll never know. He didn't.
The Image of Christian is a novel. One I wrote because I had to. "Some day" just didn't cut it any more. Whether IOC is particularly "great" or, for that matter, "Canadian" isn't for me to say. Nor do I care. It wasn't written to be published; it was written because it had to be written.
Part way through the fifth rewrite I started to consider submitting IOC for publication. After investigating print publishers and, yes, even submitting it to a few I thought might be willing to take a chance on something different, I decided to look to the future and find an electronic publisher. I investigated the contenders and then started with the best, intending to work my way down the list. As it turns out, I didn't need to. Double Dragon took and kept it - thank you, Deron.
From the above it should be obvious that IOC is an intensely personal novel. It is about "fame, celebrity and other illusions". And whether life has meaning.
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