Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Two

Milkshake just whizzed around unfinished on my PC.

 Inspiration had dried up. Motivation had stalled. 

The story was never going anywhere.
 Each time I sat in front of the screen it just stared back. 

 Then, on a dull winter's afternoon in July 2007, fate stepped in.

 Riding home from work on my motorbike, the inattentive driver behind, staring out into the bay instead of at the road ahead, failed to see the slowing traffic. All I saw in my mirror was a car approaching much faster than I was travelling. 

 There was a bang and I remember seeing the sky. 

 The next thing I remember is lying on the hard road with people staring down at me asking me who the Prime Minister is. At that point I'd lived in New Zealand for 5 years. But I struggled to remember it was Helen Clarke, not Tony Blair. 

I wiggled my toes. I could feel them. Then fingers. Sensation there also. No broken spine then. That didn't stop the cautious paramedics strapping me carefully onto the stretcher for the short ride to Nelson Hospital where they found a broken left wrist and mangled fingers on my right hand. 

 Six weeks off work. 

Midwinter in New Zealand. Stunningly bright clear days and sharp still nights.

 I rested my sore wrists on the keyboard and began typing, one finger at a time.

 I sat there for four or five hours every day. The silence allowed my mind to wander. The creative juices finally flowed.

 Suddenly the autobiographical travelogue became a story; a mysterious thriller. Nothing like I'd ever read before. Fifty pages were re-written, taking out 'me' and 'I' and putting in place someone else, who eventually became David Turner.

 I watched the TV and scoured the internet for more inspiration. 

I realised an isolated country such as New Zealand has stories of national importance that the rest of the world knows nothing about. Stuff goes on here that could have international significance. If anyone ever bothered to scratch the surface. 

 So what if something was going on? 

 What if the apparently innocuous stories on the nightly news were part of something bigger, something secret and hidden? 

 Many of the incidents and 'facts' in 'Milkshake' can be traced to actual events. Ones I have put my own slant on, to weave the story. 

 Milkshake is a fictional account of an attempt by the US Government to establish a herd of biofuel cattle in New Zealand. Sounds benign? It would be except the milk is poisonous to humans.

 On the day I finished the first draft, and without any prior knowledge or notification, the following story appeared in the national press:- Click here to read it 

Someone was already onto the concept. 'Milkshake' was suddenly no longer fictional. 

 Next time I'll tell you about more truth stretching and coincidence....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blog One

Milkshake is about coincidences. Time and again as I struggled for inspiration, something would happen in the world, which I could then use in the story. Spookily, often I would write a scene and then something very similar would happen in real life. 

The coincidences worked both ways.

As I finished writing this blog (which I've put off for at least 18 months) I looked at the date which prompted the move to New Zealand, and the subsequent writing of the book, which itself draws on, but does not directly reference the same date. 

September 11 2001. Exactly 10 years ago today, as I write.

A bit of history first.

When we moved to New Zealand in July 2002 I had a bit of time on my hands. We'd chosen to leave the UK after 9/11 the year before. A country where the kids could still be kids for as long as possible, still speak English and fulfill all their educational and creative potential seemed like a good idea. Somewhere they could play unsupervised beyond the garden gate.

Britain was no longer that country.

So, with the time I now had, inspired by the landscape, the laid back Kiwi lifestyle, and the happy coincidence of finding Nelson to be a hub of various creative activities, I set about writing.

I'd written as a child; even won first prize in a nationwide essay competition run by Smiths Crisps when I was 10. That Action Man tank and other items lasted for years. In school English classes I often ran out of time or exercise book as page after page fell to frantic descriptive scribbling. So I knew I'd come back to it one day.

In bizarre and completely disciplined preparation I decided to not read again until it was time to write. So, apart from the odd biography plus, obviously newspapers and reference books, I barely read another novel for the next 20-odd years, Certainly no more than 10 in that time.

My rationale was, the less I read of other people's work, the less I would be unduly influenced by style, or accused of plagiarizing a plot.

Milkshake began as a first-person travelogue of how we ended up in New Zealand. As I wrote, I often watched the TV news and soon became fascinated by the culture of my adopted country. How small stories made big news and how quickly a minor incident, in global terms, could influence a small nation of 4 million people.

I started to think  what if..?

What if there was stuff happening that was not reported on. What if events were occuring, but for entirely different reasons to the ones explained on the TV?

I decided I might be able to construct a whole different story around what the public were being fed in the media. I went back and removed all the first person reference in my travelogue. 

I needed a character, I needed another reason why he had decided to emigrate to New Zealand. He was still driven by the events of 9/11. But why had the media influenced his decision so much? What if there was a conscious attempt, a conspiracy, to persuade people to move from where ever they lived in the world, to one of the safest countries?

What exactly was that conspiracy and why was its influence so powerful?

In my next blog I'll talk about how popular culture influenced the storyline and what personal event drove me to complete the initial draft.