Digging

October 9, 2017

 

Tomorrow my latest novel, Closer to Home, will be published.  It’s been available to order for just over a week and I’ve been watching its Amazon sales rank with a slight sense of disbelief as the number keeps going down (that’s a good thing).  It looks like people are buying it based on the blurb and possibly on their enjoyment of my previous books.  Last October, I was extremely nervous about the release of Fracture, my second novel, because I was worried that the positive reactions to the first one had been a fluke.  This year I’m nervous again but for different reasons.

 

I’ve been trying to write about my home town and my teenage years for a long time.  I grew up in South Yorkshire and I was eighteen at the time of the Miners’ Strike.  My grandfathers were both miners and I had at least two uncles who worked at the pit.  My father started his working life as a miner before working on the railway.  The pit was a huge part of the town and, obviously, an important source of employment for many of my male peers – just like their fathers and grandfathers before them.

 

The Miners’ Strike helped to shape my politics and my loyalties.  It was devastating to many people that I knew and its aftermath wrecked the community where I had spent my childhood.  I have always wanted to write about it but I could never find the right genre or the right angle. 

 

A few years ago I took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote a 50,000-word novel called Digging.  It was set in two time periods – the early part of the twentieth century and the 1980s.  It wasn’t great – it lacked coherence and I doubt it would have been of much interest to anybody but me and my family – but I felt like I had made a start.

 

The opening section of Closer to Home is based on a real experience and the girl trapped in the quarry tunnel could so easily have been me or one of my friends.  It’s a memory that still gives me the shivers – crawling along on my knees and elbows through an unstable brick passage.  As I wrote it I knew where I was going with my story.  The girl dies and her death has consequences for a generation.  Which made me think of the strike.  I needed to include it; in fact I needed it to be a big part of the story because it too had consequences for a generation.

 

Closer to Home is a much more personal book than my previous two.  Yes, the diary in Forgotten was based on my own experiences and yes, the journey in Fracture was one that I had made but this book has elements of my past, of a time when I was working out how the world worked and how I might fit into that world.  It’s not about me or my childhood but some of the memories that I used are very important ones.

 

That’s why I’m so nervous this afternoon!

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