Inspiration is an odd thing, arriving in different forms for different people. For me, it arrived in a Mini. At the time of writing this post on May 14th, 2017, it’s less than 24hrs since I hit the ‘publish’ button for No Regrets in Paris on my Kindle account. It’s difficult to say what publishing really means to me and it will probably take hindsight for me to be able to answer that question properly, but writing this story has been a long journey. The process began on Wednesday, June 17th of 2015. I say ‘this process’ and not ‘this story’ because No Regrets in Paris wasn’t the first thing I tried to write, but more on that in a moment. Inspiration struck as I was driving to work that morning. I was living in Southwest London (Teddington) and driving to my job in High Wycombe. Because my car, aka The Dirty Mini, had no ‘line in’ or Bluetooth connectivity (it was a 2004 model) and I owned a grand total of zero CDs in England, I was forced to listen to the radio on my commute. While that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I did find my listening options to be somewhat limited.
The Dirty Mini, freshly washed, March 2016
My go to station was, and still is, BBC Radio One. I enjoy the exposure to new music without commercials (except their own promos) and a bit of almost every genre, but occasionally some of the songs get on my nerves (One Direction and Meghan Trainor spring to mind). The good thing there, is you’ll only have to hear a song for a couple of months before it is moved off their playlists unless it is overwhelmingly popular. When one of those songs came on during my commute, my backup music station was Radio X, which features good alternative rock, but irritating adverts and very little in the way of new music. If I wasn’t in the mood for whatever Radio X was playing, I’d go to BBC Radio Four, which is the equivalent of NPR in the US. On this particular morning, a group of people were being interviewed on the program Midweek, talking about alternate careers and being inspired to pursue careers in the arts. The interviewees talked about the experiences in their lives which led them to their current callings. In some cases, they’d gone in a seemingly very different direction from their original professions (you can hear the broadcast here). It was wonderful to hear them discuss how they’d branched out in new artistic areas unrelated to their jobs. There was Alfie Moore, a Policeman/Stand Up Comic, Richard Hudson, a sculptor, and Michael Volpe, an opera director.
Of particular interest to me was a young lady, Lucy Saxon, who had become an author of children’s fantasy novels (Take Back the Skies and The Almost King, now with a new novel The City Bleeds Gold). She suffers from Chronic Fatigue syndrome, a disease which had largely confined her to the couch for a period of time. While her body was weak, her mind had been active and she’d turned that weakness into a strength. Her story combined with the other panelists got me thinking; could I write a novel? Prior to this, the last creative writing I’d done was in high school, but it wasn’t the first time I’d thought of writing a story or a screen play. Back when I read Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, I wondered if I could write something similar but came to the conclusion that whatever I could come up with would only be a pale imitation of Tucker’s stories. Then while living in Bulgaria, I’d had an idea for a screen play which never really gained momentum and was consigned to the scrap heap. However, most of the time these thoughts crossed my mind, I’d drown them with alcohol shortly thereafter and then get on with my life. But while living in London, I slowed down a bit and by the time I arrived at the office in High Wycombe that morning, I had two ideas for Sci-fi novels running through my mind. I got home from work that day bubbling with enthusiasm for my new project and my wife at the time thought this was a wonderful idea (writing in general, not the sci-fi plots).
Over the next couple of weeks, I wrote approximately six chapters of sci-fi without really realizing it was a Matrix rip-off. It wasn’t until I did some research that I remembered Neo’s real name was Thomas (I was calling my main character Tom as he was a ‘Doubting Thomas’) and that Morpheus is the name of a character from Greek mythology (my secondary character had a name from Greek mythology). Consequently, that project was binned, but the writing bug had taken hold. At the time, I was watching the first season of Californication and in one episode, Hank Moody discusses “writing what you know” with his agent, Charlie Runkle. I was still searching for fresh inspiration at the time and this hit home; I would write about what I know and make up the rest. From then on (sometime in July), I focused all my creative energy on the story that became No Regrets in Paris. My wife continued to encourage me, as did my friends and family, until a year later, I had a completed first draft.
Now that my creative juices have been stirred, I don’t intend to stop. And it all started with a trip in the Dirty Mini.