It’s a question that comes up in interviews a lot:
‘What inspired your novel?’
It’s always a difficult question to answer, not least because it’s normally at least 12 months since I wrote the book and 18 months since the first spark of an idea.
The more novels I write the more I realise how much an idea twists, squirms and transforms after the initial spark. THE MISSING was originally going to be about two boys who run away in different circumstances and their stories intersect when boy 2 finds the dead body of boy 1. Why didn’t I go with that idea? I honestly can’t remember. It’s that squirming thing I mentioned at the start of this paragraph. An idea is a bit like a piece of plasticine. It appears to be to be a certain shape but when you try to find out more about it – when you prod it a bit – it changes shape.
I am currently prodding an idea for my sixth psychological thriller (to be published in March 2019). The initial spark was an eight word sentence in an email of three or four different premises I ran by my agent. Maddy liked it. More than that she got excited by it, so did my editor, but it wasn’t really an idea. It was a setting. Over the last month or so I have been mulling it over in my head. I’ve got the setting but what’s the plot? Who are the characters? What’s the twist?
I’ve swung, pendulum-like, between different possibilities – some clichés, some tired, some ridiculously OTT. I’ve felt lost, panicked and frustrated. What is this book? What is it that I am trying to say?
In a recent newsletter to members of the C.L. Taylor Book Club I admitted that an author often doesn’t know what inspired a novel until years after it’s published. Hindsight allows you to draw parallels between your novels and your life – parallels you couldn’t see at the time because you were too enmeshed in the day to day.
That doesn’t help me now as I try to pull together the threads of a story to create something that will hopefully be gripping, addictive, unpredictable and original with characters that are fascinating, flawed and three dimensional. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been struggling. Each time I prod this idea it changes into a new shape or else shoots across the room and completely evades me. But I love this stage of the process. It might be frustrating and terrifying but when all the pieces start to fall into place (to continue the analogy – the plasticine begins to take form rather than looking like an amorphous blob) there’s no feeling quite as thrilling.
And I might just have a had a little break through yesterday…
Also, THE FEAR has had some amazing reviews from my fellow authors. Check them out here.