Updating Old Ideas to Create Something New
by Celia Rees
I could see two boys, friends since infancy, been through school together, now in the 6th Form College. A girl comes into their lives. She is like no-one they’ve ever met and they both fall in love with her. What will happen? What will it do to their friendship? What will it do to them?
That’s how it started, but books don’t always go like you want them to. The boys as friends didn’t work, so I decided to make them brothers. One younger, one older, both involved with the same girl but the younger one doesn’t know.
Then there was the girl. Who was she? How could I make her different? I decided to give her an interest in radical politics. Anti war. Anti everything. At the time, that seemed a bit ‘out there’. Young people interested in radical politics? Very ’Sixties. Then, suddenly students were marching through London, smashing windows, fighting with police, hanging from the Cenotaph, throwing bins at the heir to the throne’s car. The Occupy Movement had started. The Arab Spring was kicking off. I found myself writing and re-writing as events unfolded.
All books require a certain amount of research into characters, their potential lives, place and setting. I always like to set my books in real places. I visit locations, make notes, take photographs, then change and twist what I find into what I want them to be like in the book. For the characters, I think about what their lives would be like, what interests them, makes them tick. I have to make sure I know enough about them to make them real. Rob is a soldier, a sniper, who has been wounded in Afghanistan, so I had to find out about the Army, life on active duty, sniping, weaponry, Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and so on. I had to discover Caro’s obsessions and how they linked with Rob’s bitter isolation. I had to follow the two of them into some very dark places. Then the trick is to make it all work together into a coherent story that grips and convinces. I hope I managed to do that with This is Not Forgiveness.