I’ve been writing stories for as long as I’ve been able to form words. Like an itch I have to scratch, I can’t help it. There is nothing more I prefer to do in the world. But it wasn’t until I’d got married that I felt in the right place to publish my first novel. And that was when I realised what a sucker for romance I really am.
A few months after my wedding, when everything had started to settle in my life, something inside of me clicked. I knew it was time. I was ready to properly write my first novel and get it out there. Whereas I’d written for my own pleasure for years, now was the time to let other people read it.
I’d done my degree in Writing. I wasn’t afraid to get feedback on my work. I’d just never wanted to publish anything until I knew in my heart it was right. That time had come.
Whilst I was pondering on what the book could be about, I went home to visit my parents. My mom told me she’d found an old story that I’d written and asked me if I wanted it. I’d written it when I was about 14, and it was typed out and shoved in a plastic wallet. I instantly remembered it vividly. It was the story of Bird.
This 10 page story had come from a horrible nightmare I’d had about a man who turned into a bird. Then and there I knew that I had to develop this short piece into a novel. Incidentally, if you ever wanted to read the original story I wrote, it’s published in an Anthology called Get to the Point.
Creating the Story
I had my start. I knew a man was going to turn into a bird somewhere in the book. Now I had to find the other 80,000 words. First things first, I thought it would be best to write about what I know. I might not know what it’s like to turn into a bird (although I guess my readers don’t either), but there was a wealth of other life experience I could throw into it to give it some richness.
Straight away I considered how I know women much better than men, so I decided to put a female at the heart of the story. I still wanted a man to turn into a bird and be faithful to the original idea, but I knew it would be easier for me to write about a woman.
Next I thought she could be a young woman from a Staffordshire village who moves to London, just as I had done in my own life. She would be full of ambition and eagerness, dazzled by the big city, completely mirroring my own experience. I called her Beth and I could see her coming to life.
The next thing I had to do was somehow link Beth to this man who turns into a bird. That’s when I knew I had to make it a love story. I had to. If I was going to commit months of my life to writing this book, I knew I had to make it as enjoyable as possible. And I realised I’d enjoy nothing more than writing a romance. As I got excited at just the idea of it, it dawned on me what a sucker for romance I really am. I was going to make Beth fall in love with a man who turns into a bird. Now I was getting somewhere.
This is where I hit my first major issue. In the original story, the man is horrible, and when he turns into a bird he is stuck like it for life. But as he’s not very nice, it’s fine. He deserves it. But how could I do that and make it a romance? Who is going to want to root for Beth to fall in love with a horrible man? If the love story was going to work, I had to make the man (whom I decided to call Simon) a nice man.
But then that caused other issues. If he’s nice and I turn him into a bird forever, that’s so awful. Nobody is going to like that story. Audiences don’t mind bad things happening to bad people, but when bad things happen to good people it never sits well. Especially in what was essentially going to be a lighthearted romance. I wasn’t trying to change the world and challenge my readers. I just wanted to entertain.
I was left with no choice. I had to turn Simon into a bird and then turn him back into a human again. This was going to take some thinking.
The Magic Moment
I spent days mulling over this, coming up with as many ideas as I could. And then it came to me: how I could tie everything together. It wasn’t completely out of the blue. The idea came from another story I had written as a teenager. But it worked so well. So there I had it. I could have my female lead fall in love with a wonderful man who has something terrible happen to him, and it would all absolutely make perfect sense.
It was only after I published the book that I had a lot of feedback telling me what a vivid imagination I had. Someone even said to me: “Your weirdness excites me.” I took it as a big compliment. I was taken aback by how much people seemed to love Beth and Simon. It was only ever going to be a one off book, but people were asking for a sequel. So I gave it to them. More about that some other time, though.
The other thing I was left with was clarity on where I was going as a writer. I loved how much people seemed to enjoy my bizarre imagination, and I had adored writing a romance with a twist. I knew that had to be my thing. So all of my books are now love stories with a weird twist to them. Strange things happening to normal people, with a romance plot running through the heart of the book. It might seem specific, but I’m not short on ideas. I have so many more stories to write. I just hope people keep wanting to read them.