My book, actually. Last time it happened, it was about thirty four, thirty five books ago, and the man's name was Lijah Cuu.
I've told this story at con panels and in interviews SEVERAL times before, so I'll excuse the stifled yawns at the back. For those who haven't heard it, I'll keep the facts brief: it was writing the fourth Gaunt novel ("Honour Guard") and it was nearly done, and my computer died, ingesting the MS in its violent death throes. That was the day I learned to back up.
Not wishing to miss the print deadline, I had to rewrite the book from scratch, from memory, in a month. And I did. It should have been a disaster, but it wasn't: somehow, writing it from the memory of the first draft freed me up. It was as though it was a performance I'd rehearsed. The month went by in a blur: I was producing words at a frenzied rate, a white heat of creativity. I wasn't even thinking about it - it was almost an automatic writing exercise.
Anyway, the end product - the published version - was much better than the first. In fact, it's amongst my fave Gaunt books. It was also different to the first, lost draft. New characters had appeared in it, even though I had been diligently following the same plot outline. Maybe the spontaneous new characters and side-plots were part of an unconscious effort on my part to keep the rewrite fresh. All I know is, when these new characters turned up, they came as I surprise. I hadn't invited them. They'd just barged their way into the book, and refused to leave. I was under too much pressure to argue with them, and write them back out again, so I left them alone.
One of them was Lijah Cuu. For Gaunt aficionados, the notion that Cuu appeared by accident seems unlikely. He's such a major character, and continues to be the point man for a major plot line for the next few books. He also [does several notorious things that I won't mention as spoilers]. How could I have.... improvised him?
The way I look at it, Cuu was such a fully formed character, I had no choice in the process. I regard it as emblematic of his force and malevolence as a character. And, yes folks, I know it sounds like preposterous bollocks* when an author talks about one of their characters as having a life of their own. Trust me, you didn't have to share an office and head-space with the mad fether for several years.
Anyway, I mention it this sunday morning (I'm in a slightly baffled state, akin to minor jet-lag, because the clocks went forward last night, but I still insisted on getting up at my normal Stupid Early O'clock: the state reminds me of the way I felt during Honour Guard, which is probably what reminded me), because it just happened again.
No. Relax. I didn't lose a book. These days, my back up processes are automatic and have multiple levels of redundancy. But Pariah (which is the first of the Bequin Triology, aka the first part of the final Inquisitor trilogy, aka Eisenhorn Versus Ravenor 1: This Time It's Shooty) is a very (deliciously) creative process. As I mentioned in the blog yesterday (yesterday, eh? Get me!), novels right now are much more prepared and planned than they used to be. I fill notebooks with notes and maps, sketch things out, even write chunks of text about characters for later use (I barely recognise myself!). I'm now in the frenzied writing stage, and was slightly delighted when an unplanned, unscripted event occurred. A man walked into the book. I was mainly slightly delighted, I guess, because it seems like a flash of the good old, bad old days, the old creative process (which I glorify with the name process, but which was really just a case of forcing everything into a small space and then yelling 'bundle!'). It was a glimpse of the pre-Adventures In Epilepsy me, coming into my office, messing up my notes, stealing my glasses, and weeing in my vase, as if to say "Yeah! Deal with that, motherfether".
And I'm also delighted, because I know what happened last time. I don't know who he is yet. He's just looking at me funny and not saying much.
But, just in case, I'm going to warn Bequin.
* Actual literary term.