If there’s any post which falls into my personal version of “putting myself out there” with the fear-fighting machine at maximum capacity, it would be this one. It’s one thing to write explicitly. But it’s an entirely different thing to give that work voice — my voice — and a British one at that — when I lost my English accent decades ago. But, I must keep pushing my own boundaries, developing creatively, and taking artistic risks that I was too frightened to take in the past for fear of what others would think. What I’m sharing below may not be everybody’s cup of Earl Grey and the audio recording of ‘My Ghost’, one of the tentative works for ‘Tallow’ comes with a stern 18+ content warning for sexually explicit material. So, please, be aware of that before listening.
Just to give you a brief synopsis of ‘Tallow’, ‘Tallow’ is a collection of explicit, poetic love letters which ‘The Girl on Harlow Street’s’ protagonist Justine sends to widowed solicitor Harold Clarke from 1875 to 1877 during her third marriage to George Wells. Holding true to a pact she’d made with Harold when they were together whilst indulging in a girlhood lark, Justine scripts the letters in tallow, ‘nature’s invisible ink’ as she calls it, for Harold to paint over them to receive her explicit, amorous messages. Justine’s letters are, in essence, sensual mediations or intimate vignettes created to provide sexual sustenance for both her and Harold during their physical separation. And as such, they stand as a sexual, literary connector between any writer and reader, proving the written word as the ultimate aphrodisiac which defies both time and space. There is a HUGE plot twist with regards to this collection of letters which is top secret so I can’t reveal that just yet.
As it stands, I have already written ‘Tallow’ into the main novel without writing it, and I don’t actually need to write it in order for it to work in the story. However, as with the music, my theory is that, in endeavoring to write Justine’s letters, I will be putting myself through an intense creative exercise which will bring me closer to her character as well as stumbling on clues and moments I can work into ‘The Girl on Harlow Street’. Already, with the early experiments for this collection, I’ve discovered that things in the main story I didn’t think were important are actually key to the story’s climax. I’ve also discovered that, with continued work, I might be able to voice the project once it’s ready to be voiced. I’ve italicized the word ‘might’ in that sentence as, after a week of recording myself on both audio and video, my voice is currently shot.
I will not be posting ‘Tallow’ on the website, as I’m doing with the first polished draft of ‘The Girl on Harlow Street’. If/when I complete it, I will be trying to get it out into the world quickly.
With regards to the material below, first up is my very first video which I submitted along with the first 35 pages of ‘Tallow’ for legal review. I say “first” video, but truly, it took me 61 takes and a grueling battle with my ring light to get it (a battle I’ve now lost as I haven’t been able to get the lighting right since!). Editor Kendra Guidolin and my immediate family (with the exception of one of my grown children) have also seen this video. I do slip up a couple of times with the English accent, but I was really happy when my daughter, who is currently living in London in the UK, told me that it sounded like my natural speaking voice.
After the video, you’ve got the audio of me reading ‘My Ghost’, one of the six letters I’ve written so far. Something I forgot to mention in the video is that there are many different English accents, not just one. When I was a child living in southeast London, my accent was veering on ‘cockney’, so I have no clue where the accents in both this video and this audio recording came from. Justine’s voice has emerged as softer than my own new English voice which is a bit of a surprise.
Without further ado, here we go. And once again, the audio recording of ‘My Ghost’ comes with an 18+ EXPLICIT CONTENT WARNING.
FIRST VIDEO ON FINDING JUSTINE’S VOICE
(explicit content warning / headphones recommended)
One of Justine’s ‘tallowed’ letters to Harold, in Justine’s voice.