Cripes! Seriously? I Never Expected That…
This business of writing can be a strange old thing. You get an idea for a book, you start writing it, and somehow along the way it begins to write itself. But it doesn’t end up the way you envisaged it.
What is that all about?
I’m sure I can’t be the first and only person who has researched everything to help write about a particular topic, only to find that although what has been researched and discovered fits right into the story, something weird has happened; the story has changed. This happened to me.
I’m sure those of you who have followed me for some time know that my musician husband and I met in the late 1960s when his group arrived from the Channel Islands (Jersey) to base themselves in England so that they could record and tour more easily, not only in England but throughout Europe and beyond. We later – much later – went on to work together in the international music business. So throughout our years together I’ve had a lot of experience with music, musicians, and the business side of the industry.
A few years ago we packed up our lives in America and returned to our home in England. We had ‘retired,’ and wanted a quiet life, with little travel or drama. We’d had our fill of testosterone-fueled young men and temperamental, hormonal young women. And the crazy, cut-throat world of music and entertainment. We wanted our own slice of Shangri-la.
So, getting to that point, we decided to downsize, move areas, and generally chill. Silly, silly, silly us. We’ve never been busier; just in a different way. He continues with his music, and I started to write – something I’d wanted to do since I was a little girl.
Having downsized our home, we set about going through decades of material we had accumulated. The usual stuff a family collects over the years and never quite gets around to disposing of. However, we also had decades of musical memories, such as vinyl, cassettes, CDs, DATs (digital audio tapes), videos, recording master tapes – the huge ones we used before computers, as well as numerous computers, and the material stored on them, on portable hard drives, floppy disks, and you name it. We had every stage of technology from the mid-20th century on.
In addition, there were numerous boxes of photos, photo albums, tour posters, itineraries, fan letters, and dozens of diaries which I’ve kept since a child, and throughout our work. A diary reminded me which State we were in, which country, and even which hotel and room number we had. There were various other items of memorabilia to go through, too numerous to list. Talk about a headache.
So we began with three piles, as you do. One pile for everything we wanted to keep, another for things to go to the tip, and a third for things we were ‘not sure if we should keep or chuck out.’ Anyone who has ever moved home knows what it’s like. Somehow the ‘not sure,’ pile ends up bigger than the other two.
I decided to make a list of all the items in the three piles and consult ‘himself,’ about each of them. Asking what he thought we should keep or not. Well, I should’ve known better. ‘I’ll leave it to you, you’re so much better at this than I am…’ Right!
Of course, picking up a diary to read under such circumstances is a big mistake. Hours fly past and after too many cups of tea and several diaries later an idea began to take form in my imagination. I forgot about lists and the three piles and booted up my computer. I had the makings of a story. Until it was written there was no way we could chuck anything out. I had the perfect research resource scattered around the office.
The tip could wait. I was inspired.
And so began work on what was eventually to become Only One Woman. When I began the story about a young ambitious rock band coming to what they called, ‘the mainland,‘ from the tiny island of Jersey, I had a crime story in mind. With murder, music, and mayhem; not a love triangle about a young guitarist in love with two women, and how their lives – throughout 1968/69 – in the UK music scene, changed forever after meeting him, but that is how it ended up.
It is not only a love story but part social commentary on the last decade of the 20th century. Guys, musicians, and gals love it for its authenticity.
My diaries, the memorabilia we had collected over many years, beginning with my husband’s music career and culminating with the end of our international business career, were an immensely helpful resource. I could check dates, venue names, group names, the radio and TV shows broadcast during the 1960s, books, and the food we were eating. Even perfumes, hair sprays, and the fashions we were wearing. I’d kept details of it all and more.
At least I didn’t have to Google everything. That’s a rabbit hole I go down sometimes and have to be rescued from. It’s both a Godsend and a nightmare.
I’d kept exact records of the ‘circuit‘ in the UK and Europe where bands performed; even the guest houses and B&Bs where musicians stayed whilst trudging up and down the country and around Europe. I more-or-less had a day-to-day record of where we were and what we were doing.
I kept records up until we retired.
Along the way, best-selling, award-winning Romance author, Christina Jones, added characters of her own, and our co-authored novel was published by Headline Accent. Christina and I go way back. Soon after I met my husband she became his group’s fan-club secretary. At the time she was writing for Pop magazines and girl’s magazines such as Jackie. She was also a short story author.
Perfect qualifications for a fan-club secretary.
We’d always wanted to write together, but she was an established romance author by the time I got my first publishing contract, and because I write mostly crime/thrillers, we’d never been able to envisage how we could write anything together – until Only One Woman came along. She had lots of her own memorabilia to delve into as well.
Thank goodness for our shared past.
I find that I never know where a story is going to take me when I get started. Characters change or get bumped off – if I am writing a crime story – and my original idea has altered so much by the time I write The End, even I don’t recognise what I’d started. But that’s the fun of writing.
And it is that surprise at the end of the story that I try to give my readers. I want them to sit back like I have when I’ve written the end, and say, ‘Cripes, seriously?’ I never expected that!’
Only One Woman left me thinking that when we completed it.
Not a corpse in sight, and no bloodshed
If you want to listen to the music mentioned in Only One Woman, Renza and Stella have compiled a playlist available on YouTube to go with their novel.