Heaven Sent is a love story between two sixteen year olds, Carlo Roberts and Daizee Byatt. It is a story that goes to some dark harsh places. My hero Carlo comes from an extremely religious background whereas Daizee's, the girl he falls for, is one of abuse and prostitution.
It has taken me six years to write Heaven Sent. For three years during that six I didn't touch it, I wrote and directed two films, a couple of plays... and all the time Heaven Sent was on my mind, it was the thing that I most wanted to work on, although often I didn't know how to.
I remember writing the first 1000 words very quickly and turning to my wife and saying, 'I've done it, I've started the novel'. I was really excited. I have always wanted to write a novel. The plays and screenplays that I have written never seemed to me to be real writing. I was never a greater reader of plays, I've never really read screenplays. But I love novels. Novels move me. Novels have changed my perception of the world and shaped my understanding of existence.
None of that early writing is in the final draft of the book. In fact the only material to make it through to the end is what I have written since Christmas 2010. I have gone through countless drafts, cut 100,000 words... I began by writing, what I know now were, character studies.
My studies for Daizee in particular were horrific. My mum once worked in a temporary accommodation for kids who had been removed from their parents and she told me a story about a girl who's step-dad had sold her to sailors from out of the back of his van when she was just three years old. This kid became the inspiration for Daizee.
Carlo, on the other hand is quite a lot like me, except I'm cynical and he is not. Somehow he retains an innocence even though he puts himself through some pretty extreme and harsh things. He keeps his innocence because he acts out of love.
It wasn't until the end of last summer that I realised that the story was Carlo's, that so much of it reflected his internal workings and voice. I can't believe it took me so long to realise. When I first started writing both Daizee and Carlo had an equal presence and the book was told from both their point of views. I would often jump in and out of their heads. Sometimes I would get lost. Then I decided to separate their voices.
Over the summer of last year, Carlo's third person narrative was punctuated by Daizee talking directly to the reader. This stuff was tough to write and in the end I cut it because it was too much – it was important for me to know about Daizee's origins, but it was not necessary for the reader to have such an explicit experience.
I don't think by making the story from Carlo's point of view that I have relegated Daizee to second place. Not at all. I love Daizee - I love the way she survives and is a force to be reckoned with. I love the way she exacts revenge and that ultimately she is quite a powerful force for good in a world in which examples of good are so often not what they seem. I love her in the same way that Carlo does, or at least I feel that I do. I have certainly experienced her through him. I couldn't do what he has done for her, though, I don't have that courage. I wish I did.
About the Author:
Xavier has written ten plays and directed numerous others, won a Stage Award, a Millennium Award and was commissioned by the International Festival of Perth to write their Millennium show. He has written/directed two feature films, Mine ('Breakthrough Movie' LUFF 2007) and Unarmed But Dangerous (Anchor Bay 2009). HEAVEN SENT is his first novel. Xavier lives in a quiet spot of the UK with his wife and three children.