While I'm waiting for feedback on the updated draft of Transformation, I've been ploughing ahead with the early stages of my next novel, My Family and Other Ghosts. I was initially expecting to do a lot more planning and research before putting any words to the virtual stage, but I ended up diving straight into the first chapter much earlier than anticipated – for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, this story is so unlike anything I've written before, a much more personal, small scale tale – no world changing events, no great conspiracy affecting the whole human race. Just a story of the trials of the Parsons family attempting to recover from a traumatic event. It's set in the real world of the current day, and unless you pay attention very carefully, you'd not even know it was a science fiction tale, certainly not in the first chapter. Things get a little stranger after that, but that's the story. I can't give anything more away without major spoilers. Because of this, I decided to write the first three chapter to see how it felt. I think they're likely to need significant rework, but the act of their creation is essential to ensure I can scope out the rest of the novel adequately.
Secondly, I was expecting to carry out some research into the locations in the UK, which were the major settings for the story. Then I had the blindingly obvious revelation that I had the perfect set of locations for telling the story already to hand – in and around the places that I've personally lived. It didn't even need shoe-horning into the plot in the slightest, so wasn’t just utter laziness in doing research on my part. My current location, Calne in Wiltshire has exactly the type of rural inspirations my main character, Chris Parsons, needed – the West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill and Avebury for a starter. They feature heavily in the first couple of chapters already, and will recur throughout. I wanted the Parsons to have moved away from the rat-race of their technological jobs, so their previous home was Maidenhead in Berkshire...just like me. I needed another location where the daughter, Alex, was now living. It needed to be not too far from the other towns, have a significant enough presence of technology companies nearby, so I went for Basingstoke in Hampshire – somewhere I lived for twenty years.
However, there is definitely nothing autobiographical about the story itself, no-one's based on any family members or their relationships. Let me stress that again: if there are any family members reading this...don't worry, you're not in it. Honest. If you come across a mass-murdering psychopath, then no, I didn't base it on you. I think.
I've started playing with ideas for a front cover (assuming I self-publish) - a bit early I know, but sometimes it helps my thought process, and indeed it did this time. Having decided that my main characters would live in Calne, I realised there was a piece of public art in the centre of town that fitted neatly with a main theme of the book - the disembodied head shown in the front cover mockup above. I really like the sculpture by Rick Kirby, so I'm expecting a picture of this to take centre stage on the front cover. I've been out taking my own photos of it today and will decide what to do with it later.
I've now completed my first draft of chapter one, called A Morning with Lisa, which focuses primarily on Chris Parsons' relationship with his wife, Lisa. I'm also about a third of the way into chapter two, A Brunch With Alex, which mainly concerns the relationship between Chris and his daughter Alex. Chapter three, A Meeting With Erica, will introduce a new character, Erica Immurson, who is Chris's new therapist, helping him overcome the traumatic – and confusing – events of the previous year.
I'm planning on posting early drafts of each of these chapters as separate blog posts once they're ready. I expect I'll make chapter one available in a day or so, once I've stopped tweaking it as I progress through chapter two. You can expect the final versions to be significantly different, but should give you a pretty good feel for the style of the story, and it will hopefully leave you with lots of unanswered questions that you'll want to understand.
Watch this space...