My New Year’s goals (one step down from resolutions) are to spend more time writing and to get more exercise. How the two will fit together in my schedule remains to be seen. All I know is that I need to get cracking on my new book and that the previous year, much of it spent in front of a computer screen, has taken a toll on my body.
The start of a new year is a traditional time to make resolutions and reset goals. A new beginning, we think. A clean break from the past. And yet my northern European face reveals my foolish adolescent attempts to get a tan, and my body still wears the cookies I couldn’t resist over the holidays. L.P. Hartley famously said, “The past is a foreign country.” Maybe so, but the past is also the ever-present elephant in the room.
The effect of the past on the present is a central theme in The Secret of Lanark Island. Lanark Island trades on the past, profiting from its Scottish heritage and quaint stone architecture. My main character, Kate, is stuck in an over-romanticized past. Other characters in the book live happily in the past or try to escape from the past or conceal the past or struggle to overcome the past. For each one, a secret in the island’s past will shape their future.
Similes come to mind. The past bleeds through, like the stain of a yellow highlighter from a previous page. The past gives visual depth, like actual contours inserted beneath a flat topographical map. The past provides context, like the underlying image in a 3-D photograph.
What in your past informs your present and shapes your future? The past can’t be erased and it can’t be ignored forever. But it can be redeemed.