A long time ago, when the world was a far sweeter and more innocent place (or at least my perception of it was), I wrote a novel. It probably wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but I was quite proud of it at the time.
Inspiration really does rear it's head from the strangest of places.
Looking back on it, I still am to a degree. I was sixteen at the time, and I don’t think I made an entirely bad job of it. Yes, it’s awfully trite in a lot of places, and yes my utter lack of Spanish skills probably should have made me think twice before setting a novel in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and I probably should have been paying attention to my IB History lessons rather than creating fiction. But I was proud of having managed to pump out a 70k, original historical vampire story, and even prouder that parts of it seemed not to suck.
It did get a single round of editing, but after that it ended up in that place so familiar to manuscripts: the bottom of a pile of crap on the desk. I don’t really know why I didn’t do anything with it. I knew that it needed work (a good deal, probably), but it wasn’t that which put me off. It just sort of faded out of my life, probably partly helped along with the furore over Twilight, and the inevitable march of the capitalist press-ganged clones that followed.
But recently (i.e. this weekend), my thoughts have returned to it. This is, I think, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the extremely gifted A.E. Grace has just finished the first draft of her first childrens novel, which I was fortunate enough to read. I won’t say much about it, because it isn’t really my place to, but it was brilliant and her enthusiasm in a longer-length piece and her excitement at having finished the first draft have infected me with the novel writer’s bug again. Maybe.
The second reason comes back to one of the original inspirations for writing the damn thing in the first place. In the aforementioned History class, on the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme at The Henley College (not as posh as it might sound; most of the money and snobbery in the area tends to decamp to Eton and the like for education), I studied the Spanish Civil War. It’s a fascinating area of history, and provides an interesting and oft-ignored context to the Second World War, which began the same year as the Spanish conflict started.
In this class, my imagination was captured by lecturer Robin Milne’s descriptions of the conflict, and in particular by a film we were shown as part of the class. This film depicted a young Liverpudlian leftist, who left home to fight the fascists in Spain, and who saw firsthand the events that unfolded. This was the basis for a lot of what I wrote, but I never actually found out the name of the film.
The other day, on a very helpful forum of which I am a part, a member mentioned a film which seemed to match very closely what I had seen about four years ago. Fortunately this was a far more erudite scholar than I, and he actually knew the name of it (which, to be fair, I might have found if I had actually been bothered to look). It was, of course, Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom.
So now it’s on my LoveFilm list, and will hopefully be soon in my DVD player, ready to re-inspire me. Then, armed with a red pen, a
Time to go to work...
pair of shears and four years more experience (including the experience to ask someone else to help me with the foreign language parts), hopefully I can make something worthwhile of it.
And if not, I’ll at least have seen Land and Freedom again.
(Correction: with thanks to Mr Ben Denton, the Second World War began the year the Spanish Civil War ended, rather than started. Apologies for that embarrassing little slip! Cheers Ben!)