I have a novel I started years and years ago, that I have always meant to return to. It’s about a girl called Garnet, who grows up in a lost wreck of a hippy commune, and leaves at 17, for London, to fulfil her dream of becoming a wealthy prostitute. She spends three nights working in a “hostessing club” (it’s the 80s), drinking champagne with the punters, in just her underwear. For various reasons she fails to have sex with any of the punters, but on the third night falls head over heels for the “boss”, a middle-aged man called Harvey Nightingale.
I’ve also got a play, not finished, about Thad, a young eco-warrior who, because of his politics, doesn’t want his pregnant girlfriend to have the baby. He gets the chance to travel a few years into the future, to check if his fears of climate change catastrophe will all come true. The place he arrives in is wonderful: a geodesic dome, filled with rare flora and fauna, which he gradually realises is a gym. The whole building is fuelled by human energy, converted by the gym machines. He is filled with euphoria, and desperate, now, to become a father, and watch his child grow as around them human ingenuity solves all the problems it’s caused. But he gets discovered as a non-member, and chucked out of the gym. It’s a very different world outside.
I was trying to make the story fit into a one-hour radio play, but it went spiralling off all over the place. Carter, the man who invented the time machine that Thad travels in, had done so because of his all-consuming need to reverse what he had done at the age of nine. In a moment of high spirits, he’d pushed his brother off a rock and into the river below… causing him to become paralysed from the chest down. Carter, who can’t get the machine to go backwards, watches Thad disappear into the future, expecting him to return within the second. When he doesn’t, he gets in touch with the girlfriend. And ends up being father to Thad’s child.
There’s loads of other bits. Definitely enough for a meaty novel. And there’s a genre it could plop into – eco-thriller – which might make it easier to “take it to market”.
And then I’ve got The Ministry for Animals, which is just a collection of notes for a novel set in a government department. And I’ve got my Seashell Motel story, about a woman going to the same place every summer in the hope of bumping into her ex-lover. That was meant to be a short story, but went spiralling off. But actually that one’s the simplest. I would love to write something short and slick.
How to choose.
I’ve already applied to Stepanov for help, but he just got in a bad mood. I could do loads of internet research about what’s getting published, selling, what will “go to market” Pitch my four possibilities to a selection of friends and ask them which they like best. Spend a week on each of them and keep going with the one that’s flowing the fastest. Or throw a dice.
A few weeks ago I had a meal with a literary friend, who had read and liked the first draft of my first novel She’s Not There, and had looked at the second, and wasn’t sure about what I’d done to it. He said the new bits were very well-written, but there was more integrity to the thing without them. Or so he thought. He wasn’t sure. He fell silent. I looked down at my plate, full of despair. “What shall I do?” I asked him. “Shall I revert, then? Strip out all the new bits? Tell me!” He told me that I had to decide. “Why?” I wailed. “Because you are the author.”
I tend to be rubbish at decisions. I can’t bear going shopping, because I hate having to choose between things. But of course decision-making is integral to being an author, at every level. I hadn’t thought of it like that before, and found the thought quite chilling. But thrilling, too. There’s no wrong or right. It’s down to me. I can do what the fuck I want…!