Coronavirus: Time to Write, But the Ideas Don’t Seem to Come
I’m lucky – I live in a small town on the edge of countryside where no-one’s told the Spring about Covid-19 and I have a good-sized garden. It must be very difficult and very hard managing in a small flat trying to home-school children and keep up with the home-working…
As an amateur author everything seems to rest on the ideas coming in my head. I spend many hours remodelling and replotting and rewriting, but it always seems to start out with a vision that appears in my head: people there in great clarity. I can’t hear what they’re saying but I can tell by their body language what their relation is whether it’s conflict or love or compassion that’s driving them. It’s that revelation that forms the starting point and the passion that compels me to write, whatever happens to the words in the slow process of finalising the script is secondary.
Perhaps it’s that nothing measures up to the colossal scale of what it going on about us, perhaps it’s that there is enough drama in everyday life and on TV and on the media now to quieten whatever produces the visions, perhaps it’s just a temporary break, a lockdown of ideas. I try to start out on something, but find it hard to take the words anywhere and look forward to resuming normal life when I hope the writing will come back to me.
On my walks, I spend time thinking about what the world After Coronavirus will be like and how it will differ from the past. We must rebuild and we must rebuild better. The pandemic has brought us face to face with so much that doesn’t quite work in our world and also shown us the neighbourliness and the quiet acts of generosity and of self-sacrifice that all of us value.
One of the objectives of fiction is to help us understand our lives together, through imagination, compassion and empathy, and to visualise how things could be different. My most recent novel “Blood Ties” is set in the under-world of people-trafficking and forced labour. The characters strive to change or ignore or acquiesce in the issues hidden in plain sight all round them.
Here’s an extract:
Argon Road slants off the North Circular to the trading estate behind Ikea.
‘You’ll wait for us? Ten minutes?’ I hand over an extra £20.
The door locks click and he’s off.
I pull my coat tight and look round. The air’s damp from the river and smells of diesel fumes and tarmac.
Two-storey corrugated iron sheds line the road, each with its compound, behind a three-metre metal fence. Harsh yellow streetlights clustered in fours on forty metre poles cast midnight shadows. I feel like an intruder in a giant’s world. A huge lorry with blank sides like a moving fortress glides past, the driver invisible in the cab. In the background the roar of the A406 is continuous, here there’s the pulse of solitary engines and the occasional shout and clatter of iron crates, but no movement I can see.
I shift closer to Nic but she’s concentrating on the torn packet, holding it out in front of her as if it’s a map and she expects to see landmarks. I shade my eyes to look for numbers on the buildings.
The letters SPM in lime-green neon, superimposed on a golden bullock, shine out from a scaffolding above a one-storey shed at the end of the row.
Nic’s ahead of me, I half run to keep up with her.
I can’t catch my breath.
‘Slow down, we’ve got to keep together.’
‘That’s it,’ she says again. ‘Don’t you see – they outsource. No forced workers actually in your restaurant.’
‘Nic, it’s just a business. Come on, you need to get home. We’ll sort out your pills.’
The windows along the side of the shed are ablaze with light. I smell the sour salt smell of blood and see people moving around inside. The fence is higher than the one for the next compound, and the gates are locked. Nic stands back, checking it where it turns a corner. The air’s chill on my face and I start to shiver inside my overcoat. She doesn’t seem to notice the cold.
She hooks her fingers into the wire mesh above her head and hoists herself up. I grab at her belt.
‘Don’t be a fool. That’s razor-wire on top.’
‘Lend me your coat.’
Her shoes are too broad to get a foothold. I catch her as she slithers down. She stumbles backwards against me and I get my arms round her.
She pauses for a second, leaning back into my chest. She’s so cold. I open my coat and wrap it round her. For a few moments neither of us moves. I could stand there, like that, forever, they’d find us frozen in the morning. She stirs and rattles the fence.
‘Thanks Dad. Let’s go.’
I take her hand.
‘I’ll see if I can get a cab on the main road.’
Peter Taylor-GoobyNew in April 2020: Blood Ties a social policy novel of love and conflict set in the Britain of inequality, populism, Brexit and people-trafficking. Available from all Ebook stores, £1.99, paperback out in August.
Thank you for being my guest Peter. What an interesting extract. Thank you for sharing and for joining us to talk about your experience during this time.
Wishing you health, happiness and success with your novel.
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