`Novels are second lives’, says Orhan Pamuk. He’s referring to the reader, of course, not the writer, and the act of reading, that complex negotiation between the words on the page and the imagination of the reader.
No first time writer can imagine an audience. That seems too presumptuous when you aren’t at all sure you’re ever going to be published. But you do write imagining a reader, an ideal reader, somebody for whom you are writing, somebody who, like Pamuk, tells you that in his youth he `completely dedicated’ himself to novels, reading them intently, even ecstatically.
Writing The Surveyor took years. Like every other writer, I had to find out by doing, by writing; I had to attempt to do what Raymond Carver quotes Isak Dinesen as saying: she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair.
In those years I often wondered about its fate as I cut, rewrote, changed from the first person to the third and then back again, painstakingly included details and then took them out , rearranged the order of telling; trying, continually, to tell a story, gesture towards a shape, fashion a thing, make an object that would live in another’s imagination: a novel.