Out drinking with my old friend Will recently, I told him my exciting news; I’ve almost finished writing a sequel to my novel Windmills. And furthermore, it’s become a distinct possibility that the stage version might make a return at the end of the year.
Will, who has known me a very long time, read the first version of Windmills in 2009 and is the basis for one of the main characters. When I told him my news, he rolled his eyes and said, quote; “Gab, could you just not?”
On face value, I get it. Windmills never seems to go away. I finished it in year twelve, reworked it as a play the year after, wrote a sequel the year after that, then mashed the whole lot together in a massive rewrite the year after that. This was the version that was published, the one most people are familiar with. And at the time I was happy with it. Actually, I still am. I’m a much better writer now than I was then, but Windmills is still pretty strong. It’s funny at parts, gut wrenching in others and moves with lightning pace.
I don’t think anything else I’ve ever written got the same reaction Windmills did. I got emails from total strangers telling me how much they loved it. I was invited on to a radio show to talk about it by another stranger who read it in one night. In its limited way, Windmills seemed to strike a chord. So, should I be happy with what was something of a creative triumph and move on? Of course I should. And I did. Since Windmills I’ve written six totally unrelated novels (all in various stages of editing) and nine plays, seven of which have been produced. I have explored characters, worlds and themes that have nothing to do with Windmills, and now, three years later, I’m back. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Windmills always felt unfinished. And furthermore, in what might just be my ego speaking, I never felt it quite reached enough people. It did very well for a self-published book with zero marketing and a lazy author who barely pushed it, but I think it can do better. More than that, I think it deserves to do better. Arrogant? Maybe. Deluded? Very likely. Doesn’t change a thing.
Writing a sequel was a big deal. I’ve always wanted to continue the story of Leo and Lucy, but I never had a plot that really grabbed me. There were logical continuations and everything, but I didn’t feel any of the big, exciting follow up ideas I had. It was only when I called myself to task and tried to figure out exactly what it was I wanted from them that I found my story. And the moment I knew what it was, I didn’t look back. I wrote 40,000 words in two weeks. I could barely be pulled away from my laptop. I was just having such a damn good time being back in that world with those characters. It really is like catching up with old friends, but with time and experience I could go deeper. I could explore things about Leo and Lucy I never touched on before. I found new nuances and complexities to their characters. The book veers between gentle introspection, extreme violence, soap opera machinations and tender character moments. Is it unwieldy and crazy? Maybe, but damn it’s been fun.
And in the middle of this someone suggested doing Windmills as our end of year play, and I got very excited. A chance to see the story come to life with professional actors and a decent budget? Hell yes.
Then, just in case I wasn’t obsessed enough, I went back to uni this week and had a brainwave. I’m coming into my final six months of the Master of Screenwriting at VCA, and all of it is meant to culminate in a screenplay presented to Australian producers at a pitch night in May. All of last year I tried to turn my play Reunion into a working screenplay, but all that happened was a gigantic loss of passion for the story. Over the holidays I was dreading returning to it; knowing all that was waiting for me was a distliended Frankenstein script with none of the heart of the original play. At our first class back, we were told that at last year’s pitch night, several students were picked up by companies there and then, and suddenly I thought ‘why the hell am I struggling with fucking Reunion?’ I should have been developing my best work from the start. It took roughly five seconds to decide to adapt Windmills into a six part TV series, and the results were instantaneous. I finished a draft first episode in two days and I loved every second of it. Having to extend a sixth of the novel into an hour of screen time meant getting to come up with whole new scenes and subplots that the book didn’t have room for, and I absolutely loved it. It felt like seeing deleted scenes of a favourite movie.
So, I’ve come crawling back to Windmills. Except it’s less crawling, more running with a big grin and open arms. Should I have let it go by now? No way in hell. After all the writing I’ve done in the last few years, I know I’ve got a lot more than Windmills to offer the world, and I know that some of that other stuff is really damn good. So yeah, maybe I’ll get some rolled eyes and exasperation from everyone who’s seen me go down this road every other time, but I couldn’t care less. In a few months’ time I’ll be writing something new again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t revisit old favourites here and there, and you know what? If revisiting actually makes the story better than before, then I owe it to myself to retread each and every time.
It feels wrong to be sad about you dying. Not enormously wrong, not like I’m committing a crime or anything, but wrong. I hadn’t seen you in about a year, and the last time I did it wasn’t pleasant. We exchanged some brief and heated words I walked away pissed off. And in years prior to that, there wasn’t much that went between us that was pleasant or worth remembering.
But there was a time that we were close. There was a time where you were one of the most important people in my life. You were always troubled, and you always made choices I didn’t agree with, but you meant a lot to me. I will always remember that summer where we spent every day watching anime and listening to Mika at my place, laughing and wrestling while my parents raised a disapproving eyebrow and Sarah shook her head at us. I remember us chasing each other through the rooms and kissing, not really knowing what it was but going with it anyway because we were dumb teenagers and that’s what dumb teenagers do. People told me later you were in love with me. I never found out if that was true or not.
Even before that though, you were there. And our relationship was always tempestuous. I remember at thirteen hating you for stealing my best friend. I remember sitting with you on the bus, while the other girls laughed at you and called you names and you just kept smiling throughout it while I stared them all down. We had the absolute definition of an on-again-off-again friendship.
I should have been kinder to you back then. I know that. There were times I treated you like dirt. There were times I utterly loathed you. And there were times that you were this huge, important fixture in my mind that clouded out everyone else.
There will be people who miss you much more than me, and I don’t want to claim their grief by pretending that in the last few years were we anything other than frosty acquaintances. I didn’t like the person you became, and I won’t disrespect you by claiming otherwise now that you’re gone. What we had, once upon a time, was too big and too important for pretence. But I’m not talking about what you meant to people who weren’t me, and I don’t feel the need for my grief to match up with theirs. My grief is private and my own and unique in the way our friendship was unique. But we were friends. Even now I promise you that we were friends, and I will always remember you as my friend. You were there for me in awful times, you were an integral part of my growing up and I like to think that I was for you too.
Goodbye my friend.
Just some thoughts.