It started with a hangover.
On the way home after visiting a friend for the weekend I found myself at Birmingham New Street station with some time to kill before my train was due to arrive suffering from the blistering headache and all the other symptoms caused from drinking a couple too many pints of West Midlands bitter the night before. If you don’t know New St it’s not exactly the nicest station in the country. It fact it’s been voted the worst on more than one occasion. I think this mainly due to it being buried beneath a shoddy shopping centre (at the time, there’s been a revamp since). The platforms are basically in a cave with the only natural light coming from the very far ends where the trains come in and out. It’s just not a place you want to spend any time at all. Especially when you are not at hundred percent. I had already exhausted the possibilities of the nearby shops (ie Waterstones) and normally I would have found somewhere to sit with a book until my train arrived but I just felt too rough for that. I trudged around the station and shopping centre above the station eating sweets to try and get my blood-sugar up, my mind wandering. It was around the time of the announcement of the Booker prize and to keep myself distracted from my sorry state I found myself coming up with an idea for the daftest novel I could think of. An artist… whose girlfriend/partner/whatever commits suicide, so he spends a year in a house creating art, thinking over his relationship before finally committing suicide himself. Ha ha ha, very amusing, but it kept mind busy and soon my train arrived and I thought nothing more about it.
Or I didn’t until it popped back into my head a few days later. And the weirdest thing was it would not go away. Was there really something in it…?
Sometime later I attended a writers workshop and afterwards got chatting to one of the people there and I mentioned my idea for the novel. He said it would be ‘very hard to write’ and I had to agree but it would still not go away.
The breakthrough finally occurred when I realised I just had to get the protagonist out of the house… once I worked out how to do that (and that forms the basis for the first chapter) then the rest eventually followed on from there. I roughed out a plot, structuring it with alternating chapters set in the past to replace the ‘thinking over his relationship’ with direct flashbacks.
I had originally entitled the story Blindsight. However as I was writing the science fiction author Peter Watts came out with a novel of the same name and that kind of put a dampener on it for me. I had a period of musing over a number of other options. Work of Art had been there for a while but I had put it aside as too obvious and a hostage to fortune. However I eventually came back to it as it had so many different meanings that could be related to the novel. In fact it was actually a touch of fortune, as some changes I made while I developed the story made ‘Blindsight’ less relevant as a title (though it does still remain as a chapter header) and a couple of further tweaks to make Work of Art more relevant made for a stronger story.
So I finished it, polished it and sent it out into the world to do the rounds of the literary agents. There was a lot of positive interest, enough to know I had written a decent book and I got very close to being taken on, but unfortunately because the idea was a bit too left-field it did not make it over the final hurdle. So after pondering on it for a while I decided to enter the brave new world of indie publishing. More on that in later updates. In the meantime check out Work of Art here.