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30 Days of Fika Books: Two

Okay, you're going to hate me. It's fine, I totally understand. I hope, though, that you'll understand why I've done what I've done, and we can be friends again!

Before Again. I adore Before Again. The idea rattled around in my head for years and years, taunting me while I told myself that it was too *big* for me to tackle right now (all that history!), that I didn't know enough about the fantasy/paranormal genre, and that I would definitely sit down and give it some proper thought just as soon as I finished this, that, or the next thing.

Then came lockdown. As I blogged at the time, I struggled a lot to write during lockdown. There's nothing more frustrating than having all the time in the world to write and yet precisely zero brain power to do so.

After months of driving myself mad, sitting down to write and staring into space for hours on end, I realised that I wasn't doing myself any good. I shut my laptop for a bit and I came up with The End, a mad collaborative story project for female filmmakers in Scotland about a world in which death is obsolete. It was gorgeous, and working with other people was just what I needed at the time.

Then I moved house, and with lockdown still raging on I took a couple of weeks off to be my own housewife. Other than the times I found myself screaming words I can't repeat here at IKEA instructions that breezily suggest "assembly is easier with two people!" (Take it up with the effing virus, IKEA!), it was lovely. I did a bit of reading, pottered about, fed the old artist with long walks in my new hood.

And then a third week went by and I still didn't write. My brain was just... empty. Fine, I thought, what's a third week in the grand scheme of things?

Until it was a fourth.

Then a fifth.

And I started to get a bit worried.

I'm a bit of an unusual writer in that I've had a bajillion day jobs, but no other real career. Writing is the only thing I've ever properly done. It's the only thing I can do.

So if I can't write, that poses a bit of a problem.

Survival wise.

A sixth week went by, and just as sheer, genuine panic started to set in, I woke up at dawn one morning with a chapter in my head.

A woman was getting out of a taxi in a raging Glasgow storm, and she was raging. I didn't know why, but I knew she didn't want to be there. Something was off. Something bad was going to happen. She approached a huge, gloomy, dilapidated Pollokshields mansion. It held bad memories for her, but she had nowhere else to go.

That was it. I didn't know who she was or what was going to happen to her, or even how she connected to the vague, mad, time travel concept that had been rattling around my brain all these years. But I knew it was something.

Moving slowly so as not to frighten it away, I grabbed a pen and I started writing. And I kept writing. For weeks and weeks, in a sort of feverish daze, scribbling away from dawn to dusk.

I published it that summer and.. erm... nobody bought it 🤣 The handful who did read it seemed to love it almost as much as I did, but neither love nor money seemed to sell the darned thing. Which is fine. You win some, you lose some!

But it did leave me with a bit of a dilemma. As I talked about yesterday, I do this for the love of it, yet at the same time I do need to eat and put lights on and stuff (remember how I have literally no other skills?!) So I needed to give a bit of thought to how or whether to continue a series that was PURELY for the love of it.

Around the same time, I started volunteering at my local hospital, chatting with patients to try to help to pass their wait bit. A couple of afternoons a week, I stroll around, looking for anyone who seems like they might want a bit of company or a cup of tea. And also, because I am supremely nosey, just kind of watching everything that's going on.

And I caught myself thinking about Frej. Those of you who've read it, you know the scene where he is brought into hospital (the very one where I volunteer, in fact)? As we're in Kirsty's point of view, he's just kind of taken away and we don't see him again until the shipyard. But I couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like for him to be surrounded by machines and modern medical instruments. Even the plastic chairs or being offered a cup of tea in a paper cup would blow his mind.

Would he flip out? Would he feel as though he were being attacked if he was examined or given a jag? Would he think he was dreaming? How would they deal with the fact he can't speak English -- if he was even calm enough for that to be established? What about his injuries -- what exactly would some exhausted kid five minutes out of university on a week of night shifts after a pandemic make of battle wounds and burns from having almost been a human sacrifice?

I found myself getting really excited. A driving theme of Before Again (though I didn't know this when I was first writing) is how people take care of one another -- or don't. Whether on a societal level, family, or individual, how and whether we care and are cared for affects how we engage with the world, I think. Kirsty and Frej are both outsiders in their respective 'tribes'; Solveig too has has to negotiate life completely alone for centuries. Morag and Nathan both care for other people, maybe too much in Nathan's case, while Agnes and Mrs McCafferty take pleasure in caring for no one. And as for Kenny... that remains to be seen!

That's when I realised that I hadn't yet written the story I want to. I've written Kirsty's perspective, but, while she is the main character, to tell the full story I need to delve into other perspectives. I want to know exactly how Morag identifies The Shadow in the sixties, and I definitely want to experience Solveig being reunited with her brother after 1200 years.

So. I'm starting again. From now on, the version that was published last year will be Kirsty's Story. If you've read Kirsty's Story you'll know some of what's to come with Before Again... but not all. It'll be a little bit like watching the TV adaptation of a book; it's the same story (more or less), but told in a new way AND it will go straight in to Days Gone Next!

I am SO sorry if you've been waiting for Days Gone Next all this time, but I PROMISE the wait will be worth it.

None of this will necessarily help the not-selling aspect, but that's part of the beauty of the newsletter. It's going be packed with so much fab stuff I know folk will want to read, so I can afford one wee indulgence!

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