Where do you get your ideas?
Some novels spring into mind from a single scene, or even from a single line (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) Ed McBain claims “I start with the title and go on from there.” My latest novel, Mother Naked, lurked beneath the surface for years; the idea of fictionalising incidents from my mother’s real life had thrust its head up (only to be pushed back down again) for at least a decade. So I asked myself: Did I really want to do this?
Many writers plunder their lives to make their novels – though how exciting can one writer’s life be? It may explain why, for some, their lifetime output of novels is in single figures. Until now I have not been tempted – for two reasons perhaps: first, I am a private person with no desire to share my secrets and, second, I think fiction is something you make up.
Whenever I’ve told parts of my mother’s story to friends they’ve responded with “you couldn’t make it up.” Well, that’s a challenge to any writer. One I have finally accepted.
My mother belonged to what is now a lost generation: born in the First World War, married in the Second, and dying in the first Iraq war. (During, rather than in that war, I hasten to add. She was not a participant.) But in my novel I shall not let her die. She will live on into the present day and see her hundredth birthday. The novel is set on her hundredth birthday, at a party to celebrate, a party to which you are invited, and at which you will meet Ruth’s dysfunctional family. You’ll meet a lord, an anarchist, a narcissist, a woman who is no stranger to the scandal pages, a vlogger, a so-called child-bride (of thirty-five) and at least two millionaires (though what’s that nowadays with property prices as they are?). You’ll notice that almost everyone disapproves of Ruth and her colourful past – but might the others have secrets of their own?
All, of course, will be revealed.
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