Wednesday, 14 March 2012

How It All Started

‘We are already soaked. How can you get wetter than this?’ she retorted, pirouetting in the rain and laughing, her face held up to the sky so the droplets glistened on her cheeks in the streetlight. She span, dancing to her own rhythm, laughing and beckoning to me. I grabbed her hand and tried to pull her towards the house. She held back, her face radiant with laughter.
Olives, Page 125
This is where it all started. Listening to George Winston’s stunning Winter into Spring one night made me think of a girl dancing in the rain. Why a girl, I don’t know but the track, either February Sea or Rain brought the image clearly to my mind (both of the tracks are linked above - take a listen, they're really worth it, believe me). And somehow I knew she was walking down a street in Amman’s First Circle, or Jebel Amman, area.

The next morning I had a book in my head, all laid out like blacktop in the desert, possibilities snaking out of sight among the dunes and shimmering in the sunlight. I dashed it all down in four weeks and then started the long haul of learning how to write books (which, you could argue, I have by no means finished), rewriting Olives as I went, adding bits and taking bits away as I added and deleted characters and whole scenes.

The book was always around the core theme of Paul and Aisha and his journey to discover whether she and her brother are the good guys or not – and it always had that core element of Paul trying to find out if he was somehow linked to the outbreak of terrorism that seems to follow him around. But it was in many ways, and has been through several iterations, a very different book.

All the way through the changes, that girl dancing in the rain has been in there – not on purpose, but just ‘there’. It wasn’t until the book was finally done and I started to think about its genesis I realised how important she was to the book and also discovered that her dance takes place pretty much in the middle of the book – a complete coincidence.

Why would you dance in the rain? Because perhaps you’re happy, just a little crazy or just too wet to care anymore.

And, of course, in so many ways Paul and Aisha have also reached that point in their lives...
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  1. I love that first story images can be so symbolic of the whole. The dance scene you have there is powerful, very visual. Indeed, why would you dance in the rain? One simple question created a novel. That's cool.

  2. Songs planting seeds in your imagination. Well tended, gardener Alex. Well tended. Great fruit.

  3. I was really stuck. I was going around and around trying to make some rewrite suggestions on a mss work and I simply couldn't. Then one day, in a moment of pure mundanity I thought, 'this isn't going to work and I don't have to keep trying, what about....' and then I was in hospital for some food poisoning and had a dream about some incredible giant bioluminescent squid, just awesomely beautiful. So I put the two together. That's how I got started...

  4. That is a beautiful image - and it's no wonder that it persisted right through to the end.

    As for what event inspired my latest book (the one I'm working on right now), I can pin it down to watching the first stage of the Tour de France in 2009. After observing the politics playing out between two teammates on the road that day, and then having my attention grabbed by the day's winner, I had a lot of ideas churning by the end of the first few hours. The rest of the race was just as eventful, until I couldn't put the story in my head away for even a short while.

    I didn't start watching that race with the idea of a story, but by time it was over, I knew I couldn't avoid writing it.