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 …