There's no danger of that happening today. When the wonderful Nicola Morgan (who we all know, right?) asked me if I'd host one of the stops on her blog tour I was pleased to say yes because I knew it would be a good book; now I've read Wasted, I know that it's a fabulous one. Wasted is one of the best books I've read all year and if you feel even slightly put off by the idea of reading a book for young adults, don't be: if ever there was a crossover title, Wasted is it.
Right. Nicola now owes me at least a tenner. Over to her.
First, thanks so much to Jane for letting me visit her blog! [I should hope so too! -J] I've never done a blog tour and it feels like a lot of fun. Since Jane's blog is about publishing and how it works, I thought I'd say something about ideas and how they work before publication - and if any of you writers are at that horrible stage of feeling that your idea just isn't going to work or isn't going to be published, I hope you'll take heart from what I'm about to tell you.
In theory, I don't believe that "everything has a purpose". In practice, I make damned sure it does.
It was a simple chance event on a London underground station that got me thinking about luck, chance and randomness and led many years later to my new novel, Wasted. It wasn't an earth-shattering event but it got me thinking. Obsessively. So, I began a novel for adults - I'd two unpublished ones languishing already - about chance, quantum mechanics, and unpredictability, involving repeated multiple possibilities. The idea was that if there is a god - which I know there isn't - he will either play dice or at least have a lot of fun observing. But halfway through, a completely different idea hit me, this time for teenagers. I abandoned god and quantum
That new idea became my first published novel, Mondays are Red. And then came others and suddenly I was a YA novelist and left the adult stuff behind. The other book lay half-written somewhere. But ideas are never wasted. They become other things. They strengthen the foundations of our writing lives. Sometimes, later, they seek sunlight. So, after 15 years, thedormant seed sown randomly in a London underground station began to grow and I began to write it. I didn't look at the first version because this one would be different. I was different by then, though still fascinated by chance and luck.
A bit of my heart is in all my books, naturally, but Wasted has all of me. When I started it this second time, I didn't care about publication. I decided not to show my editor and or get my agent to ask for a contract. It was a case of, "If you like it, you can have it; if you don't, I'm writing it anyway and sod anyone else." This was my story and no one could stop me writing it.
She loved it, as did my agent. It was a wonderful feeling: writing the book I always wanted to write. And although I want some people, enough people, any people, to love it too, the odd thing is that I slightly don't care if lots of people don't. Obviously, I hope readers don't say horrible things...
I guess you want to know about the incident, the random event on a London Underground station? I had travelled from Edinburgh, where I live, to London for my first ever business-trip, first public-speaking event. (I was a dyslexia specialist then.) I'd done the event and my head was spinning; I was high on adrenaline and seeing things in a brighter light. For some reason which I will never understand, I decided to take a different underground route from the obvious one. So, I was on an escalator at Charing Cross station, when I should have been at Victoria.
What happened was trivial really, the sort of thing that happens all the time: you see someone you know, somewhere they shouldn't be. So, I saw a friend from Edinburgh, on the same escalator. We were both shocked, laughed, and had that "fancy meeting you here, 350 miles from home" conversation. Nothing happened - we didn't have an affair or even a drink!
Now, maybe it was my heightened adrenaline, something getting the creativity going, but I had a light-bulb moment, a kind of "thought experiment" which has absolutely obsessed me ever since. It was: "What if there was something like a god, who could observe every human and know everything about them; and what if he could see everyone passing and meeting and mostly not meeting and weaving unpredictably from place to place, NEVER aware how narrowly they had just missed an important encounter with someone they knew or someone who might influence their lives? What if humans could be tracked like radioactive particles, bobbing around in a kind of Brownian motion, in patterns, and that the god was sitting there cackling at the powerlessness of these poor humans as they went down that street or took that turning or missed that train or smiled at that person or had this thought caused by that sight or sound or breath of air on their face? What if he could show us all that, and we could observe the almost happenings, the near-misses, and if we could, just by observing, change the tiniest things that affect lives invisibly? And what if we could then tell the story of some of those things, show the inner workings of our world?"
And that, essentially, is the idea behind Wasted. And if it hadn't been for that trivial coincidence on a London escalator, in my state of heightened adrenaline, I would never have written it.
To all writers: when you have to give up an idea - if it wasn't working, didn't get published, whatever - it's not wasted. One day, you might see how to write it entirely differently, and better. If not, the seed can lie dormant for as long as it's needed, and when the right time comes you will find a way to grow it. Or if you don't, it will still strengthen you. So, never view an idea as wasted.
Wasted is Nicola Morgan's new young adult novel, published today. She has created a special blog for the book, with competitions and stacks of background information, ideas, snippets and fascinating discussions about chance, risk and luck. Do visit it for some really interesting fun!