The first draft of The Widow’s Tale came relatively quickly. It was written in three blocks of roughly twenty thousand words, over a period of about twelve months. Compared to the time it took Jackson to write his two previous novels this is a bit of a sprint. The idea for the book had been around for three or four years, so perhaps he’d had time to turn over the possible components in his mind. Also, the tone (first person / immediate) created a certain momentum of its own.
Still, as usual it took a ridiculous number of rewrites before Jackson felt happy in finally handing it over. There were probably three or four further drafts after the bound proofs. The last changes were made roughly two months prior to publication.
If he’s honest, Jackson will admit that he was worried about writing in the first person, from the point of view of a woman who’s in her sixties. The fact that the voice that he finally came up with was so utterly unapologetic (and why shouldn’t she be … she’s just lost her husband) helped him get over that. And once he’d written the first few pages he began to think that he might be able to pull it off.
As part of his research Jackson interviewed several women who had lost their husbands in recent years. He also read a wonderful book about loss and grieving by Virginia Ironside called, ‘You’ll Get Over It’. But he’s at pains to stress that unlike his first two novels this was not a book weighed down with research.
For what it’s worth, the writing was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that reading it is going to be equally enjoyable. It also helped, he thinks, that for the two or three years he was working on The Widow’s Tale, he was also adapting one of his previous novels into a screenplay, so he’d spend two or three months on the novel, then six weeks or so on the screenplay. He’s convinced that this is the ideal way of writing. Unfortunately, it was only by chance that these circumstances came about.