This humble website has been evolving for a few months now, since I hung up my abacus and started messing around with words.
Throughout a long career massaging numbers, my real passion was always really the written word. Like an unfaithful husband with a long-standing mistress, stashed away in a seedy flat at the end of the Victoria line.
I’ve shamelessly been using justretiring.com as a training ground, pumping out functional articles like an over-zealous squaddie spraying bullets from his first semi-automatic.
I’ve even had some stuff published, and I got very excited last week when I was invited to talk about my Hidden Paris articles on Silver Travel Advisor’s radio show.
But now it’s time to Get Serious. Fictionally speaking.
I’ve been stung into action by inspirational words from four published authors, performing on Saturday at a Guardian Masterclass on How to research and write your novel.
Alex Preston expertly curated the event, and talked about idea generation, researching and editing your novel. I read and enjoyed Alex’s first novel This Bleeding City when it was published in 2010, a parable for our recent post credit crunch times. Since then, Alex has written The Revelations and his latest book, In Love and War, meticulously researched in bellissimo Florence.
Mirza Waheed spoke of the personal and the political. Brought up in Kashmir, Mirza’s published novels The Collaborator and The Book of Gold Leaves use that place’s troubled history as their backdrop. The Guardian’s offices near Kings Cross were a somewhat less dangerous environment, but in no way diminished Mirza’s message to an attentive audience of would-be writers.
Amy Sackville’s subject was writing place and character, which she has clearly done so evocatively in published novels The Still Point and Orkney. A place – or space – can be used as a starting point for a novel, as much as character or plot. It can be used to impose constraint on the narrative, as much as unfolding an unending horizon.
Kerry Hudson talked of writing from life. It sounds as though a large chunk of her own life was transferred vividly to the pages of her debut novel Tony Hogan bought me an ice-cream float before he stole my Ma. Kerry estimated 85% of Tony Hogan was plucked from her own childhood, with a mere 30% in her follow-up novel Thirst. Leave just a little of yourself a secret, Kerry!
Huge thanks to all of you, and to the Guardian. I may not be able to translate a passion for words into the creative spark of fiction, but you have at least given me the inspiration to try.