Thursday, 6 November 2014

For A.K., who asked me where I find the time

This was June. 

I got into work at 7am so I could leave on the bell. Then I drove into Manchester and skirmished with afternoon shoppers trying to find a parking space near Victoria Station. I knew if I managed to get the Newcastle train on time both ways, I’d be back for 11pm. Had my laptop and notebook with me – I was planning to kill a couple of chapters on the way there and back. Turned out I needed close to a tenner in coins for the parking meter. I only had a note. Twenty minutes until the train.

I legged it across zombie parking lots under the shadow of Strangeways and through derelict industrial zones in my supermarket suit and tie. Found a half-empty boozer, the snug full of brawlers, bought a packet of crisps, fed the change into the meter, sprinted to the station.

My train was delayed by an hour. I wasn’t going make the North East Book Awards if I hung about; the whole thing kicked off at 6.30pm. A pissed off businessman said Newcastle was three-hours by car. It was 4pm. Back in the car park, I gave my ticket to a guy in a Range Rover and started driving. The writing I planned to do on the train wasn’t going to happen.

Back in the summer, my Citroen had this thing where over 65mph, the steering wheel buzzed and shook like a dental drill. It was like gripping an electric fence as I sped north on the A1. I listened to talking books. Got to Newcastle at 6.50pm, sprinted from the car park to the event, knackered and starving. There wasn’t any food on, but I got a couple of glasses of water. My good pal Dan Smith was there, looking dapper, and other shortlisted authors, the lovely Emma Carroll and my fellow Chicken House author and general live-wire Sam Hepburn. It was great to see them. We were up on stage within minutes.

It was a brilliant evening. Kids read clever and thoughtful introductions, and in turn, we all stood and talked to the crowd in the auditorium, then answered questions. Emma won. Dan got highly commended. Brilliant books, wonderful writers.

They were going for dinner and drinks but it was getting on for 9pm and I had work the next day. The roads were quicker and quieter on the way home. I was in Manchester, quietly opening the front door of my house before midnight. Upstairs, J was asleep.

I levered open a couple of beers, lined up a playlist, and started writing. By the time 3.30am came, I was wiped out. I got three hours’ sleep then drove into work.

I’m not saying days like that one are typical, but they’re pretty close to. The sections I wrote late that June night never made the book, but that’s all part of the process. 

Later that summer, I took the Citroen to a scrapyard in West Point and got £90 for it.

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