Dark Echo began with a single two sentence statement: ‘Jay Gatsby was a bootlegger. Harry Spalding was the Devil himself.’ That one came to me one evening at the King’s Arms pub at Hampton Court and everything else followed on from it. The Memory of Trees began with the idea of a man looking up at a stained-glass window in a derelict church and seeing a depiction of a medieval knight who so strongly resembles him, he could have been his twin. With The Magdalena Curse it was a boy who dreams aloud in ancient languages.
You have to start somewhere. The Waiting Room was originally an idea I had for a short story in which a sceptical ghost hunter is stranded in the past by his own hubris. My agent insisted I write it instead as a full-length novel. I’m rather glad she did. When I put Paul Seaton in that dismal flat at the start of THOLS I had no idea what had reduced him to his pitiable condition. But I was reasonably confident it would come to me in a way that would subsequently enable me to explain it to you.
Only once has something come to me more or less fully formed, and that was with The Lazarus Prophecy. My 2, 000 year-old conspiracy of religious silence occurred to me in a dream so disturbing that it woke me. I had the choice of getting up at 3am and writing down the detail or of going back to sleep. If I hadn’t got up, I think I’d have forgotten all about it by the morning. It’s my least typical book in part because it had a theme, or a framework from the beginning. Every story needs internal logic, but that’s not the same as saying you need to know the eventual destination at the outset of the journey. My one precondition is that I have to be entertained by what I’m writing. If the story isn’t stimulating me, it has zero chance of stimulating anybody else.
Some scenes just insist on being written. There’s one of those towards the end Harvest of Scorn, the third novel in my Colony trilogy. The story needed to come full-circle. And in order for it to do so, it demanded a personal appearance from my cursed slave-ship master Captain Seamus Ballantyne. Without that scene, the story would have been incomplete. But I only realised that some time after finishing the first draft. I knew something was missing, but didn’t know what until the afternoon when suddenly I did. Writing that scene was as satisfying as the one that followed it (at the book’s conclusion), was poignant.
Today’s picture is a boat originally built for the invasion scenes in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood film. It was being customised for another role at Richmond where I took this photo. It looked completely authentic, even close-up. Much better than CGI.