Compass Rose, Island Living, and a Metaphor

Compass Rose came out ten days ago. Maybe I should have posted something sooner, but the birthday of a first book is… well… let’s just say I had too many emotions running around to pin one down long enough to write about it. So. Compass Rose is out there, doing her thing, and here I am: stuck on shore, watching her leave.

The thing that I keep coming back to in the wake of the book launch is how strange it is to be surrounded by land. I spent the past two and a half years living on islands. Most of that time was spent on St. Kitts in the Caribbean, but a few months out of the year saw me on a small island off the coast of Maine.

We live in Massachusetts, now, a few hours away from the ocean. There are countless benefits to mainland living, from reliable internet to affordable groceries, but there is something about island life that gets under your skin. Compass Rose launched almost exactly three years (give or take a month) from the day I moved to the islands, and I suppose it is fitting, as someone whose life has always been shaped by books, that the launch marks the end of my sojourn as a permanent islander.

If you’ve read Compass Rose, then you know that water plays a large role in the book. If you haven’t, picture Waterworld (a movie I still haven’t seen) but grittier and with more women. Living at the mercy of the ocean, even in our modern era, is as unsettling as it is intoxicating. And now, brace yourselves, because I am about to make a metaphorical leap.

Writing a book is like living on an island.

Stay with me. As a writer, you spend all this time with these characters, these worlds, that you’ve pulled out of a combination of thin air, personal experience, and perhaps an overactive imagination. You live, breathe, and laugh with these people, and sometimes you do terrible, terrible things to them, too. Then, after months, sometimes years, of equal parts writing, revisions, edits, frustration, and joy, you pack your bag and leave the island to its own devices. Sure, you can go back to visit, but you’ll never live like that again. You’ll never immerse yourself totally in that world (unless you write a sequel). Instead, you sail away, looking back over your shoulder as the coastline fades into the fog.

Am I happy that Rose is finished? Of course. It is my first book. I am proud of myself, proud of what I’ve learned, and eager to do better next time. But it also marks an end to something. I have to remain on the mainland, now. I have things to do here. I can’t vanish for two and a half years (well, we’ll see about that after the next election…) on a whim.

I hope you enjoy Compass Rose. I hope that some of what I got to experience as an islander transcends its pages, and that you get to feel the shocking beauty of open water. I hope that something of its unsettling omnipresence manages to permeate the pages the way it permeated my life. I hope, also, that you come away with the same realization I had forced upon me as I watched the waves rise over the breakers: when it comes to this planet, we’re all islanders.

 

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One thought on “Compass Rose, Island Living, and a Metaphor

  1. I just finished Compass Rose and I loved every minute of reading it, thank you so much. I’ve never been to St. Kitts but I’ve spent a fair bit of time on Sint Maarten, so the fragility of island existence is very familiar.

    Looking forward to reading more of your work!

    Órla

    Like

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