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.