It’s the question writers get asked most. Sometimes I make a jokey reply: ‘Off a stall in Longsight Market.’ Truth is, I’m a little reluctant to examine too closely how ideas come, I don’t like to analyse my writing process. For me, writing is about letting go, freeing up my mind to play, create, invent and I fear that too much unpicking of that might make me self-conscious, hamper that flow. In a similar way, as a reader I don’t want to analyse the books I’m immersed in, I want to suspend disbelief and accept the world of the story and connect with the characters.
What is true for me is that stories come in different ways, some grow from a phrase that triggers a situation, and an idea of character in that situation. Some follow from seeing an image in my head: dust motes in sunbeams in a hallway, Victorian tiles, the house holds a secret. Particular books might start more cerebrally – thinking about a theme that seems ripe for exploration or a situation that would petrify me, or even an incident I experience that suggests a parallel in a fictional world. These are all seeds. In order to germinate them I need to have a sense that there’s potential in the ‘idea’, which I can only explain as a spark, an excitement; when I consider it my mind goes racing ahead. But I can’t make real progress until I discover the characters. I can’t go anywhere until I’ve worked out who the people are, what they’re like and named them. And then the story, the ideas develop and change as I write. Like mould or grass or fruits. What a job, eh? Love it.
The snowdrops and the blossom and the uncontrollable urge to clean the windows.
Here’s another unadorned list of my recent reads. All thoroughly recommended. Aren’t books great?
Under The Dome by Stephen King
Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Dominion by CJ Sansom
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
Snowdrops by AD Miller