So most of you know me as the author of The Silent Chapter, a chunky 120,000-word tome split into eight substantial chapters (none of them actually silent – to understand its name, you need to read it). Thing is… it was never meant to get that long. In fact, the first seven chapters were never meant to exist. Here is the story of how The Silent Chapter evolved into the ‘cracking debut
Up until the age of thirteen, my literary repertoire stretched no further than little short school-stories (a la Enid Blyton), and slightly longer equestrian-themed novellas (a la Lauren St John). But when I was thirteen, I finished one of the latter and realised that my heart wasn’t in it any longer. I was about to go into hospital for spinal fusion surgery, so writing about horses had temporarily lost its appeal, given that I wouldn’t be able to ride them for a year. But I couldn’t bear to not have one on the go, so one sunny Sunday in May 2017 I sat down at my dad’s laptop and opened up an entirely new document. What I started to put down was a tale of the arrival of a sad, silent pre-teen evacuee arriving into the country from London during World War Two – not unlike the start of Goodnight Mister Tom, in fact.
I got about 4,000 words into it before I had to go into hospital. The next few months were taken up with recovering and getting my life back together – more on that here. But by the autumn, my fingers were starting to itch for the computer keyboard again. I now had my own laptop (it died within a year, but that’s besides the point), and so I could write freely without fear of anyone else reading what I wrote. I’m quite a private person while I’m in the writing process.
My mind went back to that story I’d started that spring. I still wanted to do something with it. I wanted to write a little cosy, cottagey, Blyton-esque short story, with all the old-fashionedness that entailed. So I wrote and wrote – always a pantser at heart! – and at some point, when I was trying to decide what direction the story was going in, decided to incorporate a tale of my grandmother’s, from her life as an evacuee during the war. With frequent flashbacks to the evacuee’s life at home, and a repeated sentence signifying important moments, I had soon crafted a 30,000-word story, of which I was pretty proud.
Then I went back and edited it. Don’t ask me why, but I had this idea that long words automatically made a story better. So I went through the whole thing and replaced every adjective with something more elaborate. This produced paragraphs like the following...
‘Brobdingnagian candelabras were being enkindled by Elaine and the cutlery coruscated in their flickering flames. Her father, normally an indrawn and supine person, was shaking hands with a pursy man. Ordinarily, he would have been vexatious and unquiet with such a fustian being, but he seemed entirely at ease. The Falstaffian was shaking his hand zealously and babbling away.’
Yes, that is an actual excerpt from that document. I know, I know. I can’t believe I ever wrote that. But to 14-year-old Kathy, whose school was really pushing the Shakespeare and Robert Louis Stevenson, it was the height of sophistication. I finished that rewrite around the end of autumn, and I was really quite proud. I even looked into getting it made up into an actual book. Not published, but just printed and bound into a book. But it was so expensive that I didn’t bother – plus, it didn’t even have a title!
I then found myself WIP-less again. I realised that I’d enjoyed writing ‘Evacuee Story’ so much that I was lost without it. So, somewhere around the start of winter 2017, I decided to write more of it. But instead of working forwards like a logical person, I decided to work backwards. I harked right back to the First World War, and started writing the story of the people with whom the aforementioned evacuee had been staying: Dorothy and Patrick Hammond. I incorporated ‘Evacuee Story’ into the tale of their romance…
And the rest is history.
(Literally. It’s historical fiction.)
What? You thought I was going to tell you more? No way! That would involve spoilers. The Silent Chapter is available on Amazon worldwide, and on Kindle Unlimited. Get it today!