Friday, 6 December 2013

Back to the Future

This week, I decided to finish something I started a few years ago.  As I don’t have the use of a DeLorian, flux capacitor and Michael J Fox, I had to dig out the file myself and pick up where I left off…

Can you imagine what and where you were four years ago?  I was living in Leeds, doing the day job taming lion cubs.  I had shorter hair and I was pretending that I didn't care about getting close to 40.  I had recently been on some shocking dates and thus The Ghost Hunters’ Club had been born.  It was worth being nearly vomited on by a drunken lecherous idiot to produce two of my most successful novels.  Almost.

What were you doing ten years ago?  I was in the early stages of my lion taming career and during the summer, I had a go at writing a novel.  I remember my mum reading it and saying, ‘Err, well at least you finished it.  Might need a bit of work L K,’ which is mum-speak for: ‘never make me read this crap again.’  Probably a good job I lost it on one of my many moves.

What were you doing twenty years ago?  I was still at university in London, getting up to no good and thinking I’d live forever.  It was the early nineties: I had short hair, an even shorter tartan mini-skirt and I thought that one day, I’d like to have a go at writing.  Man I wish I’d put pen to paper earlier in my life, although what pretentious nonsense I would have written then is anyone’s guess. 

I haven’t gone all nostalgic – apart from revisiting Reading Festival this year.  It’s just that I needed a new writing project and I remembered that I’d started a novel not long before I started on the dating disaster that was The Ghost Hunters’ Club called A Twist of Mild Virginia.  I always liked the title and so I had a look at what I had done.  I’d managed to write fifty thousand words and so I guessed it wouldn't take long for me to finish off the first draft.  It was funny reading it though.  Four years isn't that long but I couldn't believe how much I've improved my writing style since then.  There were long paragraphs, long sentences and too much exposition but even so, the story was there and the title was good.  So I’m not going to change that, just tidy it up.  A lot.

The story is set in a tobacconist in the Fens during World War One and features a relative of mine, Matty.  I think she was my great, great aunt.  As part of the research I went into one of the still remaining tobacconist shops in Leeds and asked if I could look at the jars of tobacco that lined the walls.  The staff were very obliging when I mentioned that I was writing a novel and they opened some of the jars and let me sniff them.  I know smoking is terribly bad for you but those rich and exotic smells were very evocative.  So I bought a packet of Camel cigarettes in return and they stayed on my desk for some time, so when I needed to write a ‘tobacco scene,’ I could have a quick sniff.  Funny thing is, I stopped smoking years ago.

So what where you doing five, ten, twenty years ago?  What if you’d made different decisions, where would you be now?

They’ll be back soon, The Ghost Hunters’ Club Christmas special is being written as we speak …


  1. Twenty years ago, I'd have been five :) So either sleeping, or playing with a Thunderbirds Tracey Island which was pretty much the only toy I had at the time.

    Ten years ago, first GCSE year. Five, law degree. God I'm boring! :)

  2. Five years ago I was in the same job, living in the same house and married to the same man as I am now. But I was child-free, had just started writing my first novel and was addicted to my BlackBerry. I spent all my free time and money on traveling and that year I went abroad 6 times.

    Ten years ago I had just changed jobs and moved into the legal profession. I was dating my future husband, driving an old banger and had frizzy hair. I had also just decided, after seeing Travis in concert and being told to follow my dreams, that I had to start writing. So I did. Because Fran Healy told me to. So I started writing articles and concert reviews and thought about starting a website.

    Twenty years ago I was at secondary school, excelling at English, French and Religious Studies but failing at pretty much everything else. I also had a massive crush on a guy I was too scared to speak to who is now a good Facebook/Instagram friend. He finally thinks I am cool, but I really don't care.

    I'd change nothing. I have no regrets :)

  3. Funny thing is, I was out last night and standing at the bus stop when I bumped into an old uni friend - I haven't seen her in donkeys years, how she recognised me is anyone's guess.

  4. great post! Let's see...20 years age we were 10, in the last year of primary school. Our rabbit gave birth to 7 kittens. We kept all of them and gave them a Watership Down theme in the names. And we discovered the love of writing stories, which were particularly gruesome and involved people being dismembered. Nothing's changed :)

    10 years ago we'd just finished doing 2 years as voluntary teaching assistants in the school where our mum worked. The school finally came into money but instead of paying us to do the job we were doing, the headmaster employed one nursery nurse for the wage of 2 teaching assistants. We left in disgust and started writing full time.

    5 years ago we finally decided we'd had enough of living with depression and social phobia and with the help of our psychologist (who we stared seeing at 20), made the incredibly hard steps to get better. That was also when we had our first short story published. We thought it would be the start of an illustrious writing career, that with the first acceptance, plenty more would follow. We now know better.

    If we had the chance to go back and change anything, would we?

    Please don't make us go back. Living it once was bad enough! The main decision we wish we could change was doing our A levels. They just weren't worth it. And you don't need qualifications to write :)