About seven years ago, in between finishing Never Coming Back and starting to think about Fall from Grace, I had an idea for another, completely unrelated story. It was about a mother being suddenly and painfully separated from her daughters, and the terrifying, and emotional, journey she undertakes to get back to them. I wasn't sure if it was a thriller or not, although I was pretty certain that I could turn it into one, but –– unlike a lot of the Raker books –– it arrived in my head relatively fully formed. I had a clear picture of who the woman was. I, very quickly, realised what could have separated her from her daughters. And, a little while later, when I decided that, yes, it very definitely was going to be a thriller, I started to see the reasons why the journey back to her girls might end up being terrifying.
Those of you who've read these blogs before, or have seen me talk about writing at events or in interviews I've done, will know that I'm not especially fast. I write one book a year, and it takes me about 10 months (ish) to complete a first draft. I'm hopeless at maths, but even I was able do the sums: if I only had two spare months every year to write something else, and it took me 10 months to get a first draft together, if I was going to write this other book –– in between writing and continuing to try and establish the Raker series –– it would take me five years to finish it. And that would be on a not-exactly-ideal rota where I'd keep having to dip in and out of the 'other' book, in between Raker's, for two months at a time –– very obviously, a terrible and highly disruptive way to try and write a novel.
There was something else to factor in too. The Raker's are pretty all-consuming to write: they're quite complex in terms of the amount of ball-juggling I'm doing, it takes months and months for my tiny brain to figure out what goes where, and by the time I'm done with one, the very last thing I want to do is go straight into writing another, new book. I want a few weeks off, to think about other things that aren't book-related, like seeing my family and actually going outside. And also, in those spare two months, I need to give myself enough time to research and figure out what the next Raker book is going to be about. In short, even if, through some fluke, I was able to make the slightly preposterous, 'write the other book in your downtime' thing work, I clearly wasn't going to get two full months on it.
So, in the end, I kept going back to it, year after year, but not really achieving very much. I might add a couple of chapters, but only after I'd read what I'd written the previous year, to remind myself of the story and the characters. And, of course, a year on, there would always be things I didn't like, or storylines and characters that bore too much of a resemblance to ones in the latest Raker I'd done.
Yet, despite that, the book didn't ever really leave me. It just kept bubbling away at the back of my head, asking to be written, and each year I would sort of pine for it, but mostly ignore it, because the Raker's seemed like much more of a sure thing, and –– with the Raker books –– I sort of knew what I was doing. (Emphasis on 'sort of' here.) With a standalone, it would be completely uncharted territory, it would be a main character I hadn't spent ten books with, and it wouldn't be the cosy familiarity of missing persons either.
But, after finishing No One Home at the end of 2018, I realised something: for a year, that might be exactly what I needed…
To be continued…
P.S. Since the last blog, I've read:
The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books The Government Didn't Want You To Read by Jim Trombetta
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
The Pictures by Guy Bolton
Then She Vanished by Claire Douglas
The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
The Burning Soul by John Connolly
Atlas of Untamed Places by Chris Fitch
Soon I Will be Invincible by Austin Grossman
A Window Breaks by CM Ewan
The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski*
The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett
Conclave by Robert Harris
*This took me FOREVER to finish reading, which is why this blog's list looks a bit on the small side considering the length of time since the last post. If you've ever read House of Leaves, you might have an inkling as to why it took me so long. Imagine the world's densest, most deliberately impenetrable novel, and you're halfway there. In places, it's amazing. In a lot of others, annoying and arduous.
Author of the David Raker novels