A busman’s holiday is one that involves doing the same thing that you do at work. Maybe writers are a bit like busmen—however hard they try they can never really leave that essential part of themselves behind.
We’d had a grim few months and really needed a good holiday—and that was just what we had waiting for us, a whole blissful week in the Italian lakes. I’d fully intended to abandon any thought of my writing, turning my back on my current work-in-progress as I closed my laptop and stowed it away in a safe place—and preparing to enjoy a welcome taste of sunshine, relaxation and la dolce vita (or prosecco anyway). And not a thought of writing.
I should have known it wouldn’t work. Being a writer isn’t something you can shrug off. There’s always some part of your mind observing, considering, filing things away for future reference, catching at the unexpected elusive fragment that sparks the imagination—like catching at cobwebs, as writer Wendy Robertson wrote once.
So it happened. There’s a story I’ve had in my overstuffed mental filing system for a long time; at least since 1993, when ‘Candle in the Dark‘ was first published. When you’ve lived with your characters for the year or two that it takes to write a novel it’s hard to turn your back on them, especially if the story hasn’t come to an emphatic full stop. So I’ve had the shape of a sequel to that novel in my head for many years, just waiting for the right moment to spring to life.
We took a boat trip to a garden on an island, exploring its shady jasmine-scented paths, wandering through the rooms of the Palazzo at its heart, with their grand furniture and weird, unsettling display cases of puppets. And there something suddenly clicked and the characters in my lurking story were at my side, living beings experiencing the joys and terrors lying in wait for them in this very place. So this lovely island will one day feature in their story, if I live long enough to write it and don’t have too many distractions.
Meanwhile, I’m back home again and the bleak world of early 17th century north east England has closed around me once more. But I’ve made my notes and downloaded the photos, and when I’ve finished this book, then…
Well, watch this space, as they say.