In order to generate some regular content for my website in lieu of news, I put the call out to friends, family and readers to suggest topics. The first one came from a good friend, Jonny Brook, so I thought I’d go in with that one.
How does the journey work? What prompts you to go from an initial idea to do the required research that produces a novel?
There are two answers to this, one of the ‘process’ and one of how the idea naturally evolved and developed, I know Jonny is a pretty abstract and creative guy (he is viciously funny, and working on stand up routines) so I’ll go with answering -as best I can- on both levels in order to give a fuller answer.
Sometimes the ‘ideas’ for certain plot elements exist before the idea of a story. I’d always harboured ambitions of writing a script for the ‘Halloween’ movie series and had visualised many scenarios that I thought were scaring. That had gone as far as writing more than half a script with all of the ideas for scares and suspense I had, and that was possibly eight or nine years ago. Around the same time, I wrote a script for a story called ‘Limerence’, which was submitted to the BBC writer’s room.
Neither of these came to anything – in the interest of full disclosure, both of these ‘projects’ were my first serious creative writing ideas and the Halloween idea remained private. I only mention it because many of the ideas for ‘scares’ were re-used for ‘Coal House’ and ‘Mablethorpe’. The point is that they’d been saved, somewhere, for posterity and then re-cycled for something new.
The idea for writing a fiction book at all only came from my attempt to try something new every year through writing, but I’ve already talked about that enough. So I couldn’t write Halloween, but I could put my ideas into a fiction story and see how far it went. And that’s how the seeds were sown for ‘Coal House’, and then, subsequently, ‘Mablethorpe’. I used North Wales as a setting for ‘Coal House’ because there was something so idyllic and, in all honesty, convenient, about the isolation. Once I had used North Wales, a place familiar to me as a holiday destination as a youngster, then other holiday places suddenly presented themselves as possibilities. So I suppose as far as research goes, I try to use my own experiences of locations, and think how they could be interpreted across the spectrum.
I’m such a keen observer of human interaction and the way we all react to certain things, how there is this commonly accepted standard of reaction that is portrayed and lived up to in terms of the public facade we all put on, but the reality is, our reaction is pretty much within all the shades of everything we know as people. And I love exploring that, the inevitable and unpredictable over-reactions, non-plusses and so forth. What is common – just an idea, of what is normal, when every single person’s journey is so individual. Once you completely embrace that, then creativity for writing an original work is as limitless as it should be. That’s obviously just my opinion but, yeah, that’s why I’m writing it, right?
As for ‘Limerence’, well, the entire plot of the story has changed but the theme is the idea behind the manuscript for ‘Peach’. That has evolved so much due to the work I have done and the benefit of the experience I have working with so many insightful individuals, who have helped me explore the ideas I had and articulate them in a way that those people don’t even know. I guess the point here is that it has been such a long time to put this story together, it may take a while longer for it to be out there, and now in a strange way, due to the ‘journey’ that story has been on, that’s quite fitting too.
I have so many ideas written down that have either a theory or what I think is a clever title which is suggestive of a storyline (with, obviously, some of that storyline included) and I hope that some of these will develop into something more, but I think it is absolutely so important to at least explore the idea, because you never know where it will end up. Almost always, the provocation from idea to actual action is done though my own conviction and opinion of the strength of the idea (though I have to admit I have a bunch of people I bounce ideas off and whose opinions I trust implicitly), and then the idea will float out by itself and sink or swim.