Aside from a couple early practice novels, Akard Drearstone was my first real novel and my attachment to it has been deep. Was gestation to publication really forty-two years? Well, this novel has been on my mind since 1975; in fact, the character of Akard Drearstone had appeared a year earlier in a comic I drew. But my estimate is that over these decades I’ve spent approximately eight years on this novel. Its lineage can be traced through three different eras:
The Ancient One: The Original and Scarcely Believable (To Me, at Least) Volcanic Eruption of Ideas, Character, and Plot
I went into Draft One, February 1976 to March 1978, with the plan that I’d I write out everything I could consider expressing. I was astonished at what flowed out: several dozen characters representing all the psychic forces I could imagine, and bizarre unfolding plots and subplots. Looking back on Draft One years later, I realized its 1,587 pages contained one good novel, one bad novel, and three mediocre novels.
Draft Two, May 1978 to October 1980, was an era of endless revisions and a growing awareness of the novel’s obesity and other shortcomings, all of which forced me to come up with some new rewriting techniques. There were also problems with attachment to the Holy Words of Draft One, writer’s ego trip, ambition, and publishing paranoia. The happy astonishment of Draft One gave way to a determined, ongoing worry about Draft Two’s prospects in this unpublished-author-hating world.
I typed 300 pages of MS. to September 1981, then wearily understood that this novel no longer expressed my current concerns, and that the physical typing was taking too much of my writing time. I had two other novels going by then and so could accept that Akard wasn’t everything.
1984 witnessed the clunky creation of New Akard 1979. Chagrined that I had no backup copy of the remaining chapters, I made a photocopy of twenty of them (out of the original thirty-one) and called the resulting 760 pages the finished novel, now titled New Akard 1979–because in 1976 I had set the plot in the “far future of 1979.” I was satisfied that this roughly cobbled version had put an end to the novel, and I was proud that I’d lopped off 50% of the original novel and strengthened the rest considerably.
Two: A More Mature Twelve-Year-Old Jan Pace Experiment Renaissance
But a 1992-94 revision demanded existence. After writing several other novels I realized there was unfinished business with Akard and I completely rewrote it with a new structure of putting myself inside the mind of a twelve-year-old girl as the main character. The 1994 Akard Drearstone was a good synthesis of all the personal Akard myths over two decades. I also decided to leave this novel set in 1975, and ever since I’ve considered it essentially a historical novel. My memory is that I wanted to consider this effort publishable, but … for some reason … I never got around to submitting a query letter …