Mobile or cell phones are such an integral part of our lives that I imagine young people who’ve grown up with them would find it hard to imagine a phone-lees life! The novel I am working on at present, ‘Flipside’ is set in Oldham, 1993 which is when I first started jotting down ideas for it, and writing initial drafts.
I wondered about bringing this early manuscript up to date, and setting the action in the present; one of the key themes is the effect of war on servicemen, and particularly the dreadful effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sadly, we have had sufficient conflict this century for men and women to be suffering now from what the witnessed and experienced in a variety of theatres, but most obviously Afghanistan. The character in my novel served in Ireland and in the Balkans… should I change his battle-zone to Iraq, or Afghanistan?
Well, I could do… except I would have to re-write the story in a major way because in Flipside there are no mobile phones. I know there were cell phoned in 1993, but not everyone had one, and it is crucial in my book that characters can’t contact each other except by a land-line…. and anyway, I really felt that much of what happened in the book, and the way the characters were with each other was of its time… so it’s decided, Flipside is set in 1993.
One of my weaknesses in writing is description… I can hear the dialogue so vividly, I can watch the characters’ actions over and over… but description is something I have to work at. So for the first time, I have to do a little historical research… there are eight year-old twins, what cartoon would they have on their pyjamas? What would the other characters wear, men are easy, mostly t-shirts and jeans, but Kiran is a snappy dresser, he always wears a tie… so what style of tie? What might be the motif? Denise is always smartly dressed and made-up, so what would she be wearing? What style would her hair and make-up be?
It’s only a little thing to go back twenty years… but suppose I went back further… could I write a novel set in the past? I would love to write about the love affair between my great grandparents, 1880 and 1895… or my great-great grandparents travelling to set up a business in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)… I would like to write about King John, I would like to write a novel set in the so-called Dark Ages, or one set in the early Bronze Age… what a lot of research that would take… but could I do it?