This is a little bit about my novel Coming Back To Life.
Initially I wrote this novel as a series of short stories but when a publisher – Steve Savage – read the stories he said if I write six more and turn the stories into a novel he would publish them.
At the time I was working at a fairground. We had quiet times, such as school days, and so the bosses were happy for the staff to do other stuff as long as the working areas were tidy and we dealt with customers when they arrived. One woman was studying to be an accountant, one man was studying to be a pilot and I wrote a novel.
I set the novel in Stoke-on-Trent, which is a working class city in the middle of England. I was a student there, and I loved the down to earth nature of the people. I volunteered and worked with homeless people in Stoke, and so I have mentioned Hope Street – which is also the title of a Levellers song about people who live below the poverty line.
The stories in Coming Back To Life are either my personal history or the personal histories of several of my friends who came to the UK from Rwanda and Congo. I have also mixed in other stories that were in the news – or took place under the radar – at the time I wrote the novel. And so the lead character Danica is someone from a tough situation. She is from Toulouse in the south of France. At the time of writing, the ghettos in Toulouse had become no go areas for the police, and kidnappings and murders were an every day event. Danica could be seen as a freedom fighter, on the side of the innocent. Under the command of international crime lord Mr Gladstone, Danica is smuggled into England to escape the dangers she faced in Toulouse and Mr Gladstone puts Danica to work in Stoke-on-Trent.
The scenes in the novel were set in my dreams. I had many recurring dreams about an alternative cafe, a house on a coast and abandonned factories, and so I used these locations as the settings for John’s cafe, Hepburn’s grandmother’s home and a fight scene.
The chapter Three Frogs and a Red Bandanna is a nod towards Nick Burbridge whose band McDermotts 2 Hours wrote Blue Bandanna. Burbridge has supported my writing since 2003 and he has inspired so many people and bands such as the Levellers and Ferocious Dog as well as being an acclaimed poet and writer whose work is now on the GCSE exam paper. I’ve also inserted several people I know into the novel. The older couple on the last page are my parents. The young man in the first chapter in Dr Martens boots and a duffle coat is the Scottish script writer Chris Lindsay who has worked on Holby, River City and the film Cloud Atlas – a great friend who has stuck by me through everything.
I love playing with double meanings so I did a mini celebration every time I wrote a double meaning into Coming Back To Life. It was a joy writing this novel and fairly easy because it is a novel of mini stories instead of a novel with A and B story lines. For a reader, this means Coming Back To Life is easy to read. If a reader needs to read a chapter and then put the book down for several days – or weeks – there is no concern over forgetting details for the final pay off. The pay off is there, where Danica finds peace, but the pay off comes after an accumulation of events and stories, not details. Danica has a very happy ending.
I hope people have a good time reading this novel. It touches on real events that are often forgotten and it celebrates the family that people who have nothing make for themselves.