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Awarded December 2013 for MAKE DO AND MEND by Adam Fitzroy

Monday, 28 January 2013

Flat spot

I'm in that depressingly flat place between books at the moment. It doesn't usually hit me quite this hard, but rushing to finish BETWEEN NOW AND THEN was such a massive effort and required so much adrenalin - coming so soon after Christmas and a major DIY effort on the house, and then a week's supposed 'break' (through which I worked continually) which also had a major surprise wrapped up in it - that anything else by comparison is bound to feel a bit second-best.

I'm also in the position of juggling two potential plots, both fairly well-developed. One of them concerns two schoolteachers from different ethnic backgrounds who meet in the cultural melting-pot of London in the mid-1960s. The other is about three generations of a family reconciling themselves with their own sexuality - and one another's. The latter is likely to be a longer book, though, and Heaven knows longer books don't exactly seem very popular at the moment. Besides, knowing the rate at which I work, a book the length of STAGE WHISPERS or MAKE DO AND MEND could take me up to a year to write, and that's really not what's needed at the moment. I need to tackle something that isn't going to take more than six months, so effectively that leaves me with the London book - and eventually with writing/having written four historical subjects in a row. Most of the other ideas in my projects folder seem to be historical too, though - there's another World War II piece, and something about the Railways Inspectorate, and a possible mediaeval piece, and something set in 1837 that doesn't take place in Paris or feature revolutionary students.

Well, it's going to be a question of thinking about this quietly over the next few days, and hopefully coming to some sort of decision by the end of the month. I find that if I just do something else and let my subconscious make the decisions I'm usually satisfied with the results, but there does seem to be quite a lot of waiting and displacement activity involved - and that, in my opinion, is almost more stressful than working flat out!

Friday, 11 January 2013


Anyone who's been reading my work for the last couple of years will probably have realised by now that I don't write very quickly. In fact, I generally reckon that 500 words per day is a fairly good rate of progress - especially when you consider that I very often get caught up in quite detailed research, and that tends to take quite a lot of time. (When I was writing MAKE DO AND MEND, for example, I had a delightful couple of hours' diversion to work out how Kitty could possibly have made her own pickling vinegar. It wasn't used in the book at all, but I had to satisfy myself that it could actually be done.)

This being the case, therefore, you'll realise that having to write quickly doesn't really suit me. However when Manifold Press suffered a mini-crisis and ended up looking to me to bring BETWEEN NOW AND THEN forward three months - it had originally been intended to publish it on 1 May - I had a moment of panic and then settled down to do some very quick calculations. I had roughly half a book already; could I possibly write the other half in time? The answer is, it seems, yes. Writing quickly is not my idea of fun but it is, it seems, quite feasible in an emergency!

BETWEEN NOW AND THEN is the story of Dennis and Allan, two colleagues who work together at a Yorkshire hospital. They - and four of their workmates - are on the way home from watching a football match in Poland in late 1991 when their journey unexpectedly takes them through a former battlefield in Belgium, and a very strange sequence of events begins to unfold. It makes them question a lot of things that they thought they knew for sure, like the nature of time and whether or not there is life after death - and if, despite all evidence to the contrary, they might actually end up liking one another.

I've been very lucky to have had the entire editorial resources of Manifold Press diverted in my direction; everyone has been incredibly helpful and supportive, and I've had more kind offers of help than I really knew what to do with. I was also lucky that there was nothing in my schedule for this part of the year that couldn't be postponed; I was intending to devote it all to writing, anyway - just not at quite this pace. Anyway, the worst is over now; I'm just putting the finishing touches to the book - which is why I've got enough free time to write this! - and then it's up to Manifold to put it all together in time for publication on 1 February. But oh, please, dear Manifold Press, no more emergencies! I'm more of marathon runner than a sprinter - and when I say 'runner', I mean it more in the sense of this man, with whom I feel I have a very great deal (at least 130 lbs) in common!