I just love those little moments when an idea drops into your mind, seemingly out of nowhere. In the following seconds and minutes your blood sizzles through your veins as you scramble around for the obligatory pen and notebook, to record the notion before it slips through your fingers and disappears forever. And they come along at the most inopportune moments: standing in the supermarket queue, driving home from work, lying in bed at night. Or in this case – staring out of a cafe window.
Those of you who have read An Unfamiliar will be aware that my inspiration derives from putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations. With this is mind, a seedling settled in my mind some months ago for book three. For a while I nurtured and fed it, until it was ready to burst out onto the page in the form of a novel opening. But I wasn’t quite sure how to progress it. Until today…
This morning we headed out into the blustery, autumn weather in search of a Halloween hunt. In the beautiful Midlands County where I live, we have an abundance of ageing stately homes, steeped in history, who open their houses and gardens for Halloween festivities. However, sadly Lady Luck refused to smile on us today. As we drove, the weather deteriorated into a windy, wet fog; the kind of day where you only choose to step outside out of necessity. We tried two events: the first of which had indoor activities and was fully booked; the second, a garden hunt, was cancelled as the weather reached new levels of wickedness. Finally, in an effort to retrieve something from the day, we stopped off at Beans Cafe in the wonderful old town of Oundle, on the county boundary, for lunch.
And there it was. As I tucked into my vegetable chilli nachos and sipped my latte, I stared out of the window absently. The rain abated momentarily and I witnessed girls from the nearby public school pass in their striped culottes, wisps of long hair dancing in the wind; an elderly lady parked on double yellows and emerged from the car slowly, balancing her unsteady frame with a wooden stick; a young boy crossed the road clutching his father’s arm with one hand, the lead of a brown Labrador in the other. The people of Oundle going about their business. And in that moment it happened. The seed of my next story cracked open and a small growth emerged.
I think these are called ‘light bulb’ moments. And this one saved the day. As I watch my daughter head out for ‘trick or treating’ this evening with her friends, I know where I’m going to be – stuck behind my keyboard developing this idea into an outline.
Happy Halloween everybody.
Before I finish this post, I’d like to send my best wishes to my dear friends across the pond who have faced the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. My thoughts are with you all.