My name is Nick Lyons and I have recently completed work on my first novel, tentatively entitled Milk and Honey (or, The Story of a Novel). I consider myself extremely fortunate to have you reading these first few pages.
I started work on this novel five years ago, shortly after graduating with distinction in English from the University of Calgary. The first two chapters came to me in a day and I was immediately very excited by their potential. I have had the good fortune, throughout these five years to have my former professor, now friend, A. Mary Murphy as a mentor. Mary, a published poet, professional writing consultant and recipient of several writing grants, has helped me immensely during the writing process, offering indispensable advice and critique. When I read the first two chapters to her, she said, confidently, that they were the seeds of what would be my first novel; as always, she was right.
A strange and complex novel has indeed grown from the seeds of the first chapters. The novel might best be described as magical realism woven into the tight fabric of memoir. Weighing in at approximately 120 000 words, the novel is about a young writer who struggles to come to terms with his main character, the mystical bastard, butcher son of Louis Riel. This character reveals himself slowly to his creator through conversations, historical documents and, ultimately, the author’s own imagination. As the novel progresses, the line between author and subject dissolves, forcing the reader to question who made who.
This novel is an homage to disparate literary and musical traditions. At the outset of the novel’s composition, I was at the height of my Thomas Wolfe obsession (the first chapters composed shortly after a trip to North Carolina to sit at his grave): the novel’s very title bears reference to one of his lesser known works. There are many other influences too. The novel borrows styles and themes from The Gospel of John, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and Reinaldo Arena’s Singing From the Well. There are poets and musicians here too: Rainer Maria Rilke (as translated by Stephen Mitchell) joins Walt Whitman, Carey Mercer, Edgar Lee Masters, Bob Dylan, William Blake, Dan Bejar and Jack Kerouac (Mexico City Blues Kerouac, that is) all lend their voices to Milk and Honey’s strange, drunken choir.
From the time I started writing this novel, I have eagerly shared it with friends and strangers alike. I have done a number of public readings, one of which enabled me to raise money to pay for a professional editor. People have been incredibly receptive, which has led me to create a blog by which I serialized the book’s first chapters. Again, the response has been overwhelmingly positive as evidenced by the fact that the site, on average, receives 150 hits a day.
The internet has enabled Milk and Honey (or, the Story of a Novel) to seep into public consciousness, even in its unpublished form. Recently, I was contacted by Price Morgan, a graphic designer at the Banff Center for the Arts. He asked me if he could adapt one of the novel’s chapters into an animation; I, of course, said yes, and he has already sent me a story board. Price has received a Governor General’s Grant to fund the project.
The popularity of my blog is increasing at an alarming rate since I have become a freelance writer at Monday Magazine, Victoria’s free Arts and Culture weekly, and Beatroute Magazine (both Alberta and BC Editions). I write articles almost every week for Monday, and have recently written my first cover story. Every article I write for the magazine has a link to my blog, which has led to a further increase in readership. Already, people are asking for more: I smile and tell them they’ll have to wait until it is published.
I am confident that it will be published soon.