Its difficult to tell how long it took to write Twenty-Two Eighty-Four.
Looking back at the date of my History of the World document on my trusty old memory stick its 2004. That would suggest ten years, but there have been huge gaps. Looking at one of my old hard-backed notebook, this one is so old it is foolscap; I’ve discovered all the preparation notes written in pencil. There are descriptions of various locations and characters and the family tree of the central family, the Kuceras. Then theres a loose sheet of paper, also written in pencil with a time-line of what happened on various continents around the world. Theres no orderly system in this notebook, and a few pages further on I come across notes from the Genes and Society Festival dated 26/4/03, so I must have been thinking about this for a while. Now Im looking up my old diaries and find a.m. writing entered on 23 & 24 May with Gay Authors Workshop on the 25th. The first time I attended Gay Authors Workshop however, was on Sunday 22 June according to Dairy.
In July I’ve got more Writing in Diary, but this is for the Espresso Writing weekend with Mark Ravenhall. We wrote a play in a weekend! A week later I was sitting in shock getting feedback on my play from Mark. My Mum had died the night before and I was off to New Zealand for a funeral. I missed the next GAW meeting but managed to make the August workshop. Theres nothing now until November in the Diary because Im on tour with storyteller Rangimoana visiting Village halls around the country. Then with a long planned family holiday in New Zealand December and January, its not until February 2004 that I settle down and begin to write seriously and attend the monthly Gay Authors Workshops. I would read a chapter a time, which gave me an incentive to keep the copy flowing and also do re-writes and corrections. Theres nothing like reading out loud to spot mistakes and typos. I seem to continue attending intermittently on Sundays throughout 2005 and early 2006.
Things keep cropping up on Sundays in 2007 and often if I havent written anything I dont go to the workshops. I must have had a New Year resolution to write more as in January 2008 Ive written Writing day and Half Day Writing in my diary. Clearly this is another creative spurt and Im back doing the workshops. By early 2009 the writing is on the wall for creative funding and I decide to take a part time job as a doctors receptionist. This leaves little time for writing and when in 2010 Phillip & I go travelling around the world, I swap to travel bloging and writing 2284 stops. Ive left my characters stranded in Istanbul where they stay for almost two years.
The travel blog is a great success and when I return to London late in 2011, I have it published. I immediately solve the problem of how to rescue my characters in Istanbul and complete the book quite quickly over the winter months by going twice a week to the newly opened and heated Dalston Library. Most of 2013 was taken up with rewrites, edits, travelling to Norfolk to do a photograph for the cover and yet more edits, critiques from friends and colleagues followed by more corrections, until I know just about every sentence in the book by heart. I dont of course, and have to rehearse my selected bits in advance of the launch last Wednesday at Housmans book shop in Kings Cross. Theres a certain significance launching a book about a sex-worker in this part of town, even though the regeneration of St Pancras and Kings Cross stations is transforming the area. I also agonise over what to read as its quite difficult to avoid frequent sex scenes albeit described quite clinically. My teenage kids will be in the audience. In the end I decide not to worry. The story is what it is and friend, colleague and avid reader Jo has already told me its a page turner. Another friend, Ros says its well written, and thats a relief, but what will my friend from the gardening club in her late 80s make of it?
Theres over 30 people attending and the long narrow shop seems crowded with friends, relatives and members of Gay Authors Workshop and the publishing co-op, Paradise Press. David Gee goes first with an excerpt from his book The Bexhill Missile Crisis. This is set in the early 60s so its a rather large leap ahead to the year 2284 and my three pieces where I introduce sets of characters from different locations in the book. It all seems to go down well and David returns to read from his older publication Sheik-Down. Set in a gulf state and foretelling the possible outcomes of an Arab Spring. We have a short question and answer, the only one being from my friend Phil, who wants to know about the transition from being a playwright to novelist. Its good, having taught playwriting for so many years to realise that Ive taken my own advice, particularly about setting up the landscape and characters, so that the story almost tells itself. Whats even better, I sell copies, so with my insulated rucksack/picnic bag on my back, packed with un-drunk white wine and juice, surplus snacks in a bag for life and the remainder of the books in a small travel bag on wheels, its home to eat and have a glass of wine.
I could never answer GAW questions, How many words or pages will it be? I always think that a piece of writing is as long as it needs to be. How long did it take to write? It took as long as it took, in spurts, maturing in the pauses and gaps for mulling and reflection.