Saturday, 18 April 2009

Countdown to Claudius

This has been a very productive week in just about every way. I've been working on a mammoth project at my day job that involves endless meetings, changing working patterns for the whole place and trying to get people behind it even though there lives are being changed. Interesting doesn't really describe it. But it seems to be coming together now and nobody's ambushed me on the way to the train or tried to run me over in the car park, which is a big plus.

I sent the final changes for Claudius off last weekend, but it wasn't accompanied by that little panic attack of 'what if I've left something in that will make me look like an idiot', because I was straight on to the next project. Simon has asked me to put together detailed story arcs for three entirely new books featuring an entirely new character. In a way it was a mirror of the moment when Sarah O'Keefe suggested I take the first 40,000 words of The Emperor's Elephant and turn it into a different book. At moments like these you can either collapse in a panic attack or you think 'Wow what a fantastic opportunity'. Fortunately, mine was the second reaction. It opened up a whole new vista and my mind immediately started churning with possible characters and situations.

I got down to work on Monday and by Thursday I had book one complete. It flowed so naturally it was as if I'd had it in my head all the time. There was also one of those signpost moments. I was sitting in my office working on a month's worth of rotas for thirty people covering 18 hours a day over seven days (and trying to keep them all happy), when David Robinson walked in and handed me a book. The one thing that had become clear right away when I started working on the arc of book one was that I didn't know enough nitty gritty detail about the life of the people I was going to write about. The book I had in my hand was a manual that let me into the secret of what they had for breakfast and what it felt like to wear their clothes!

Started book 2 on Thursday on the train. Got detail of chapter 1 down and didn't know where to go next. It was based on a vague idea and I realised I hadn't even written a synopsis, which was asking a bit much. Started on the synopsis at Linlithgow and I knew I had the book in the bag by the time I got to Edinburgh Waverley. I've got the bones of five chapters down now and I can feel it growing in my head all the time.

At the moment, book 3 isn't even an idea, just a name, but I have a great character, an exotic world he will live in and an epic finale that will ring down through the centuries.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Er, just a bit. I've been down this way before and the brilliant ideas can slip through your fingers like smoke when you sit down and try to make them happen. But I have a good feeling about this. It feels like one of those moments when you come to a fork in the road and some inner voice tells you which is the right one.

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