For some time, I have been struggling to put a damper on a new novel which was clamouring for my attention, but Sunday, two weeks ago, I gave in. Whole scenes were running through my mind demanding to be written. So temporarily abandoning Forget Me Not which was nearing completion, I began a new novel with the working title, Stories People Tell (tentative cover above). Writing on average a chapter a day, I have now written over 20,000 words and am enthusiastic about the result.
I was planning to give you a peek, sharing the first couple of paragraphs of the draft, but it is still undergoing changes. With such inspirational writing, you don’t necessarily know where the novel is heading. Here is no exception. The initial idea that sparked the book turned out not to be the subject of the book, as I had imagined, but only a starting point. Anyway, here’s the current beginning.
Update: The draft is now complete and final editing almost finished. The book should be published in the very near future. (*)
Annie looked up, startled. Nothing ever happened in the East End. She should know. It was her home. Yet, there she was, standing alone under the awnings of the docklands light railway station only a stone’s throw from her school, intent on returning home after a class outing, except that the only path not blocked by crash barriers led across the park and the football pitch through a raucous crowd sporting badges, waving blue banners, screaming, “Kard, Kard, Kard.”
Sure. She’d noticed the posters plastered on the walls around her community school and on the deserted houses and warehouses awaiting renovation. Bright splashes of blue amid darkened bricks and vacant windows, but their gaudy colour did nothing to allay the ever-present battle between decline and gentrification.
She might be studying sociology alongside English Lit at A level, but she was not much interested in politics. All that bluster and the many broken promises got on her nerves. It seemed so pointless and fake. Why didn’t they get on and do something?
She glanced over her shoulder admiring the ethereal architecture of the station with its stainless steel curves. Well, they did get some things right. Opening the railway had been a real boon. But there were no shops around the school. In the scramble to build high-value accommodation, shopping had been neglected or relegated to malls. There were many more estate agents in the area than shops. What about the old or those who were handicapped or school children like her? If she wanted a snack, she had to bring it with her or walk miles for one.
Peering over the heads of the swirling masses, the main building of her school rose above the newer buildings that had spawned at its feet like a weary matron from another age scornful of the noisy crowd. Annie enjoyed attending school even if it had its limitations. That very morning, during their outing, she’d complained to Miss Denovic, their sociology teacher, how few computers there were for sixth formers, only to be promised that more were on their way. Not that Annie would benefit from them. This was her last year.
A brass band struck up nearby, blaring trumpets and trombones, even a saxophone, and the incessant battering of drums. The noise was so loud and strident it rattled every bone in her body. It conjured images of war and devastation. During break, she’d heard them parading the streets, but she’d paid no attention. It was frankly not her taste in music.
On the walk to school that morning, she ran into several groups of rough-looking youths sporting large blue badges loitering down narrow streets, a fag in one hand, a can of beer in the other. Thank heavens they hadn’t been in the underpass. They ogled her with a mixture of desire and disdain. Terrified, she had been so busy keeping out of their way, she’d had no time to wonder why they were there.
Of course, she’d heard of Kard. Who hadn’t? You couldn’t open a newspaper without his face leering out at you. The man had a regular spot on all the talked-of TV chat programmes. He reminded her of a stuffed pig. A thick-set, blundering oaf who constantly cracked jokes, most of which were in bad taste, often at the expense of women. Some of her friends thought he was a laugh. A few found him handsome. One even claimed to have met him. Her mother called the man a buffoon and was clearly amused. Her father said if he was a buffoon, he was a dangerous one. Miss Denovic said Kard hailed the end of history. Didn’t she mean the end of the world? (…)
(*) Editing the whole draft is now almost complete, The above is from the latest version of the draft. Updated: Friday, December 8th 2017.