Show 018: April 2009
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NewsI recently took part in a community consultation about a site to be developed in the very beautiful Copley Valley on the site of an old wire works. My job was to listen to people’s views and fears and to write a poem reflecting them all. I wrote a three part sonnet which appears in my blog.
Milly Johnson’s latest novel plopped through my door recently and what a delight it is. A Spring Affair is full of her trademark charm and humour and Milly is busy transforming Barnsley into the Venice of the north.
I’m looking forward to the Scarborough Literature Festival where I am appearing on Sunday April 26th, interviewing, in separate events, Jenni Murray and Libby Purves and performing a selection of my own poetry.
I’ve been very pleased by the attention the novel ‘The Rescue Man’ has been getting. It’s been really positive. I started as a journalist, working in a bookshop, sending off journalism on spec. I was always mad keen on films and having been writing film reviews for ten years; it’s a lovely job.
I always wanted to write a book; I love reading novels. Novels are the great art form. In the last few years I realised my subject was staring me in the face, where I grew up, Liverpool. Liverpool takes the big non speaking part in this novel. The most important thing about starting the book in 1939 is that it’s on the eve of the most traumatic things that happened to the city. The 1860s was when huge numbers of mercantile palaces were being thrown up. There is a contrast between these two Liverpools which interested me
Liverpool got the heaviest bombing of any provincial city and widespread destruction; I felt I had a duty to say something about that. I liked the fact that not many people had written about heavy rescue where people went into bombed and damaged buildings to retrieve the wounded and the dead.
Of my two characters Tom Baines is nothing like me; a shy recessive architectural historian and looking for a purpose in life. He realises that the city he loves might be obliterated. The great resource for this book was photographs, I looked at so many through a magnifying glass and checked out the destruction. Peter Eames was based on a real architect Peter Ellis whom no-one knows much about. He built a couple of buildings in Victorian Liverpool. Eames’ diary was the most enjoyable part of the book to write.
I may have left Liverpool, but it hasn’t really left me. I couldn’t write about it until I was an exile.
The book took about fourteen months to write but it was brewing for quite a bit longer. I wrote it from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday evening. Guilt was a thing which drew me back to desk even though i wanted to be reading someone else.
I’m writing something now which is set in 1911 about a suffragette who meets a cricketer. It’s a kind of Edwardian love story. The past really galvanises my imagination. I can’t ever imagine writing a novel set in the present. The past can be pinned down and discovered. I do a lot of research but I think you can kill a book with too much information. Writing fiction is like sailing out on the open sea, and a more lasting pleasure than journalism, because you’re inventing it.’
Poem of the month
This month's poem of the month - Seas of Faith.