Goodbye Birdie Greenwing: The Difficult Second Novel by Ericka Waller | Magazine | Interviews | Literary Fiction
Goodbye Birdie Greenwing

By Ericka Waller

Dog Days author Ericka Waller on what she learned while writing her second novel, Goodbye Birdie Greenwing.

(Spoiler alert, writing a second book is jeffing hard and not for the faint of heart, but it will all be okay in the end).

I thought the hardest thing about getting a book deal was swimming through the treacherous moat of first drafts, dodging the poisoned arrows of constructive criticism and braving the dragon fire of scathing rejections. Once safely behind the golden gates of a publishing house, ensconced within its solid walls, decorated with heroic foremothers of fiction, everything else would be a cake walk. Right?

Yeah. No. It’s not that my first book, Dog Days, came easily to me. Some of the storylines were written in my own blood, and I skated dangerously close to semi biographical at times. And yet, it always felt good, and somehow right. I found Narnia every time I opened my word doc, could walk round my manuscript, drink tea with George, throw a stick for Fitz. In the words of Herman’s Hermits, I knew I was into something good.

Dog Days is a story about three people facing seemingly impossible things: the sudden death of a spouse, obsessive compulsive disorder, and domestic violence. The characters are linked together by dogs, and in various forms, love. I set it in Rottingdean where I live, and often find myself looking out for Dan up the windmill walking his dog, or Lizzie in the bakery buying treats for Lennie, George knocking tins off the shelves. Poppy barking outside. My love for them is familial, they are real to me, beautifully flawed like the best of us.

Writing Book two was like trying to drive a car with no brakes, or windscreen wipers. Actually, you know the car the Flintstones drove, the one with no floor? Book two was like that. I didn’t have a clue where I was going or how to get there. I was on the road to nowhere.

‘In hindsight’ (a phrase I hate and will never use in my work) I have learned that ‘Only fools rush in’ (another phrase I want to pin to the wall and throw cleavers at). Dog Days took thirty odd years to brew. Of course, Book Two was going to need a while to ferment.

Did I listen to anyone who told me to take some time out? Did I trust that inspiration would strike when it was good and ready? In answer, I’d like to take this space to publicly apologise to my editor for some of the drafts of some of the attempts at books I sent you (insert embarrassed dog with new very short hair gif here).

*I am aware that some magical, mythical folk hammer out a cracker of a book every year. I don’t know where the mystical pool of eternal inspiration is that you drink from, but I envy you. Also, please invite me to you next full moon ceremony. I’ll bring hummus.

Dog Days explores overcoming hardships and learning to live imperfect lives. It came from losing my beloved aunt and my friend’s brother, from living with anxiety (hence the name, Dog Days). It came from feeling lost and finding myself.

What did I have left to say after that? What was the point of my work and how would I find it? Was I a one hit wonder? How was I ever going to write a book I loved as much as Dog Days?

Well, I started by panicking, obviously. Then I kept writing horrible female characters. Overblown, one dimensional women, already peeled onions with no layers, no depth. Bitter and clumsy and flat. ‘Is this all I am?’ I raged at the dying light of another fruitless draft.

I had to dig deeper, search harder. I had to pick at scabs until they bled. And finally, within a deep ravine of my overbaked heart I found a little girl, who smelt oddly of marmite and told adult jokes she overheard in the pub and didn’t know the dance steps to Paula Abdul’s Opposite Attract because she listened to her dad’s Bob Dylan vinyl’s and her best friend was her great Aunt Margaret who let her pull her tartan shopping trolley and pick a fancy yoghurt from Waitrose once a week (gooseberry fool obs). She was a lonely girl who never fitted in, even as she grew up. She was riddled with issues, a knobbly bobbly, gobstopper of a character. She was it.

Once I dragged her kicking and screaming out into the light, other characters appeared too. They clambered (some huffing and puffing) out of the well inside me, made up like badly assembled pantomime across the stage of my mind. The traits of my grandmother, worn on the face of a short women in beige. An old pipe dream of being a doctor pinned to what I know of my husband’ Polish aunt. A woman with small boobs and flat feet who never said the right thing and was scared of saying no. Fact and fiction, things I’d overheard on buses, outfits I’ve admired, people who have loved me, who have hurt me. Best kisses and roads overlooked. All the choices that women do and no not make. It all came together, and I knew what book two was going to be about. It still took a lot of drafts, and some nervous wobbles. The final version is so different from the first that for a long time all I saw was cut and pasted paragraphs, but I’d done it. Dog Days has a scrappy little sister. Book two is like that fashion fringe you cut in yourself then immediately regretted. It was a pain in the arse to grow out, but grow out it finally did.

Goodbye Birdie Greenwing is a book about three lonely women who don’t fit in. Who have been grounded by their choices. It is a book about finally finding your tribe in the most unexpected of places. It’s about letting the light in.

(c) Ericka Waller

Twitter: @erickawaller1 IG @erickawaller1

Author photograph (c) Daniel Shearing

About Goodbye Birdie Greenwing by Ericka Waller:

Goodbye Birdie Greenwing

Great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget…

Birdie, Ada and Jane are all lost. Life has not turned out as they planned, and all three of them are scared to ask for help, to say yes – or to say no. To take a chance on someone else.

Birdie Greenwing has been at a loose end ever since her beloved twin sister and husband passed away eight years previously. Too proud and stubborn to admit she is lonely, Birdie’s world has shrunk.

Jane Brown hoped moving to Brighton would be a new start, away from her overbearing mother. While she finds it hard to stand up for herself, her daughter Frankie has no problem telling people what she does and doesn’t want.

Ada Kowalski thought training to become an Oncologist in England would be a dream come true. In reality she is isolated, exhausted, the professional detachment she has had to develop now threatens to take over her life.

When a series of incidents brings their lives crashing together, these three unlikely allies find that there’s always more to a person than meets the eye.

Goodbye Birdie Greenwing celebrates female relationships in all their forms. It explores what being a mother means. It is a story about the choices we make and how we justify them. About finding out who we are, not who other people think we should be.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Ericka Waller lives in Brighton with her husband, three daughters and dogs. Previously, she worked as a blogger and columnist. Her first novel, Dog Days, was widely praised by authors and reviewers alike. Goodbye Birdie Greenwing is her second novel.
Twitter: @erickawaller1 IG @erickawaller1

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