Faber rewrote The Crimson Petal and the White (2002) several times over a twenty year period:
Q: The proof copy of The Crimson Petal and the White includes the legend that this book was twenty years in the writing, editing etc. It's an intriguing legend this. Can you tell us a little more about its (pre)history?
A: It's no legend. I started it when I was about twenty-one and finished the final rewrite of it last year. The original manuscript, stiff with white house paint (I couldn't afford Tipp-Ex) is in a box at my feet under my writing desk. That noise you hear is me kicking it gently. The original version of the book was very bitter and Hardyesque. Sugar died a grisly death at the end. William was a much nastier piece of work. As the years went by, I became a more compassionate and less cynical person, so in the later versions of The Crimson Petal I treated my characters with more generosity and good humour.
Next week, thanks to 21st-century technology, you will be able to cast your digital net in cyberspace and catch the first instalment of my Victorian novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. It's an extraordinary destiny for a book that was once a ragged bundle of paper. When I scribbled the first draft of it 22 years ago, PCs had not been invented and the niftiest machine I aspired to was a typewriter. Even Tipp-Ex was a luxury: I corrected my manuscript with house paint, scissors and glue.
I wasn't stupid. I knew my manuscript had no chance in the modern world. Publishing had moved on since Dickens, when typesetters squinted over illegible handwriting. There was nothing I could do with my bundle except let it moulder in a drawer. I had written it for nothing. Well, that wasn't strictly true. I had written it for love. [...]
But Petal nagged at my conscience from its drawer; I had brought Sugar to life only to crush her under the wheels of a cab (the original finale). She deserved better. In rewriting, I kept the architecture but let the characters develop organically. [...]
New technology helped. Working on a word processor, I made thousands of changes I would have lacked the energy to make with a pen. I joined an internet community of Victorian scholars, which meant that if I posted a question about 1875's lavender harvest, more than a thousand experts would ponder it.
Interviewed in the Guardian, 2003:
Q: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
A: Oh, lots. I have a list of them stuck to my PC, to shame me.
More How we work.