Crosstalk UPDATE–October 27, 2015

I FINALLY FINISHED MY NOVEL!

Oh, frabjous day! Calloo-dallay!

Happiness! Fireworks! Delirium! Joy!

I’ve finally finished my novel. I know, I know, I said that a year ago, and I did think it was finished when I turned it in– and then spent months and months doing the revisions (three separate rounds of changes and cuts) and cursing the day I’d decided to write the stupid thing.

But now it’s done–well, not quite; I still have the copy-edited manuscript and the galley to go–and it will be out next fall! Yay!

It’s called CROSSTALK, and it’s about telepathy–and our overly communicating world. It’s also about helicopter mothers, social media, Joan of Arc, sugared cereals, Bridey Murphy, online dating, zombie movies, Victorian novels, and those annoying songs you get stuck in your head and can’t get rid of!

Here’s the set-up: My heroine Briddey Flannigan works at a smartphone company . Her on-the-fast-track boyfriend Trent has just talked her into the two of them having an EED, a minor surgical procedure that makes it possible for the couple to sense each other’s feelings–but only if you’re both emotionally committed. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

“Oh, you’re so lucky!” her assistant enthuses. “It proves he loves you!” And everyone else is thrilled for her–except for C.B. Schwartz, the scruffy tech genius down in the basement, and her constantly meddling Irish-American family, who all think it’s a terrible idea. And dangerous.

“What if you come out of the surgery a vegetable?” C.B. asks her.

“It’s perfectly safe,” she assures him. Brad and Angelina have had it done. And Kate and William. And nobody’s had any bad side effects. What could possibly go wrong? And in spite of their warnings, Briddey goes ahead and has it done.

And nothing does go wrong: she comes through the surgery just fine, and even begins sensing emotions earlier than the doctor said she would. Only they’re not Trent’s emotions. And a few minutes later, when she finds herself not just empathetic, but telepathic, she’s linked not to Trent, but to C.B.

And she can’t tell Trent because you’re only supposed to be able to connect to someone you’re in love with, and she can’t tell her family because they’ll say, “I told you so!”, and she can’t tell the doctor because he’ll think she’s crazy, and meanwhile, C.B. is making smart remarks and offering all sorts of unhelpful advice. And you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Things are about to get much, much worse…

The novel was partly inspired by our wildly over-connected world, in which we’re constantly bombarded with communication, most of it unwelcome, and partly by the misconceptions people have about what being telepathic would be like. They always assume it would either be profitable (finding out people’s computer codes or social security numbers or blackmailable personal secrets) or fun.

So not true. In the first place, people think all kinds of things we don’t want to hear. “No man is a hero to his valet,” Madame Cornuel famously said. Or to anyone who can hear what he’s thinking. I mean, do you really want to be privy to all the crabby, spiteful, nasty, malicious, and downright unhinged things people think?

In the second place, listening to people’s thoughts would be terminally boring. I often write at Starbucks and unwillingly overhear lots of conversations. On one occasion I was stuck next to two women having a riveting discussion. “I’ve got to go to the grocery store after I leave here,” one of them said. “I don’t know what to buy for supper. I was thinking a beef roast and potatoes with carrots or maybe green beans, only Bob doesn’t like them. Maybe I could make a meat loaf. Or pork chops.” This went on for forty-five minutes while her friend said not a word. (Actually, it might have been interesting to hear what she was thinking.) Do you really want to be stuck listening to that? Or to some guy going on and on about how he hates his boss–or his ex-wife? And just think what the upcoming election season would be like?

And there’s no reason to think you’d be able to just listen to the parts you wanted to, like Mel Gibson did in that awful movie, What Women Want. Or that you could choose who to listen to. You might very well hear them night and day. And there’s no guarantee it would be limited to people you know. You might be stuck hearing that bratty five-year-old on the plane behind you. Or the thoughts of a serial killer. Or a Wall Street broker. Not a pretty picture.

I considered all these unpleasant possibilities–and a bunch of others–when I was writing Crosstalk. So I guess you could call it an anti-telepathy telepathy novel. On the other hand, there might be some aspects of being mentally connected to another person that might be truly lovely, like…

No, I’d better let you find those out for yourselves. Crosstalk, coming out from Random
House next fall. I’ll keep you posted on exactly when.

And in the meantime, Hurray! I’m done!

Connie Willis

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