Before you read this week’s blog – a quick update on last week. The lighthouse took a week to recover, and then, when I replaced the battery, the light flickered into life and began to turn. Brilliant!
With regard to the chick’s gender – not so brilliant. It’s still too early to be sure, but yesterday, one of the chicks which I was sure was a hen, was trying to crow. It is possible the five of the six chicks are cockerels. Ah.
For example, I remember visiting Aunty Daphne once, my mum’s cousin, and she lived in this big old house, which had stables in the garden, and big flagstones on the ground. The adults spent hours (literally, hours) talking, and I used the time to play in the garden. In my mind, those disused stables were full of horses, and I ran around, bringing them hay, curtseying to the master of the house, dancing in the moonlight (even though in reality it was a sunny afternoon). I became a different person.
As an author, people sometimes ask me where I get the ideas for my novels, but this has never been a problem. Even when I was very young, my mind was always full of the “what if?” question. “What if I was lost on the moors?” What if a monster landed in the garden?” What if I didn’t really live here, and was simply hiding under the bed?” I spent a lot of time on that last one, and would spend hours reading books under the bed, not hearing my mother when she called to me, sneaking down to the kitchen – desperately trying to not be seen – and stealing slices of bread and apples, which I would scurry back upstairs with and eat under the bed; all the time lost in this ‘other world’ where I was an orphan, sheltering in the house to survive. I didn’t ‘pretend’ to be other characters, I sort of ‘became’ them. I think it annoyed my brother and sister intensely, and I am a bit surprised my parents never sought psychological help for me.
As a teenager, I tried to use this game of ‘becoming a character’ to act. I joined the amateur dramatics group in the nearest town, and tried to ‘become’ the characters in a play. However, I found I didn’t especially like following a script, being what someone else has imagined, so although it was an excellent experience (I found my husband there) I didn’t continue.
I have a million books in my head, waiting to be written. Each one begins with the “what if?” question. What if a foreign government crashed all the infrastructure in England – how would I cope? What if I became aware of a smuggling gang using the lane beside the house to exchange goods? What if I was a teenager, and the boy I fell in love with had a horrible accident and lost his legs? What would it feel like to have dementia, and be slowly losing my mind?
Stephen King said that reading books about ‘nasty things’ is the way we prepare our minds for when disaster strikes, like dipping our toe into something. It allows us to examine our fears in a safe place, and consider them, before we put them away again. I’m not sure about that. I think I just like living in a pretend world.
Of course, each story begins in my head, but to make them authentic, I need to do some research. So if I want to write a story about smuggling, I need to find police reports about what is happening, I have to find the transcripts of police interviews to learn facts, I have to check on possible routes, and actual ways and means. There has to be a smattering of real facts to hold together the structure of imagining. Otherwise it would be like telling someone what my dream was about last night – and we all know how boring that is!
Reading books is a way of experiencing other people’s “what if?” – I think it helps us to understand situations beyond our own experiences. Reading books differs to watching films or television or plays, because the action takes place in our heads, we hear our own voice speak the lines, we become part of the action. (This is why I rarely read supernatural or ‘spooky’ books, because I don’t want that stuff in my head.)
I wonder what your “what if?” thoughts are. Perhaps you should write them into a story. I did.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about some of the support I received.
Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x