Friday, April 25, 2014.
After thirteen years, much hope, much heartache, much joy and much pain, Eleanor is finished. Edits and revisions still remain, but her story is complete.
I began writing this book in 2001, while driving from Oregon to Nevada after a Thanksgiving vacation with my family in Depoe Bay. The beginning of the novel – which is very different now than it was then – came to me as I drove in the wee hours of the morning. I recited the words over and over, building on them as I drove, and when I couldn't hold all of them in my head any more, I pulled the car over to the side of the road and wrote the words down on the back of an envelope. I could see a farm to my right, across a field, and a house on a hill to my left, and forest everywhere. Eleanor began in Oregon, and has always been an Oregon story.
I was twenty-three years old. I was married. I was a very different person then.
This year I'll turn thirty-six. In the years between, much in my life has changed. Beliefs that I held into adulthood have fallen away. The marriage fell away with them. Other relationships came and went. I found career success as a designer, and cultivated that, and worked my way up to creative director for a few firms. In 2007, my real life began when I met the beautiful girl who would become my wife three years later, and the mother of our lovely daughter, Emma Purl, four years later.
Through almost all of my adult life, Eleanor has been a constant companion, the story that I couldn't shake, one whose hooks were so deeply embedded in me that they held me back, in a way, from writing anything else for many, many years. (When I did manage to shake the story for a few months, I was more productive and creative than I'd ever been, writing four novels and a stack of short stories in about fourteen months.)
The novel took as long as it did because it took as long as it needed to. The story needed me to grow up so that it could grow up, too. I said recently that this might be the best thing I've ever written, or that I might be entirely delusional, but the truth of it is that this doesn't matter. Eleanor can be terrible, or it can be wonderful, but it means very much to me, and I have finally seen it through to its end.
I'm not entirely sure how to describe what I am feeling right now. Not sure I could if I tried.
Eleanor is done. But maybe – as naive as this might sound – I'm finally just beginning.