See, I do have a little bit of good news to tell you about Cold Light, but not just yet. I wanted to write about writing the thing. It’s easier to see how it went now it’s been a few months since I’ve looked at it.
The hardest part was pulling the ideas out of nowhere – it didn’t come to me with a story fully-formed, like number three has. There was a scene – two teenage girls in a car with a man they thought was a bit older than them, but was actually very much older than them. I could see the place where this scene was going to happen – the car-park of Cuerden Valley Park, which is fairly near where I live and very near to where I used to live when I was a couple of years older than the girls who started to appear to me. Chloe and Lola.
Chloe is the blond, secretive, popular one. Sometimes she talks in an American accent. Lola is her best friend – a girl with fuzzy hair and parents who’d buy her a new school coat for Christmas. I could see them in the car-park – on the coldest and deadest day of the year: Boxing Day. No idea what they were doing there, who the gentle, vulnerable man was they’d just bumped into to, or why they were out on their own with this older man.
Carl. The one with a car. The one who bought them mobile phones to keep tabs on them. Lives with his mother, who has diabetes, collects china tea sets, uses a wheelchair. (The details of the story came tumbling out, like this, as if from the air). But I knew it was cold and they were staring through a bare hawthorn hedge at something and they didn’t want to be there, not really. Something terrible was going to happen.
So that’s where I started. I wrote it, and tried to build a story around it. It took about three years, and realising half-way through I’d gone down the wrong track and had to throw half of it away and start again. That scene is still there though – the heart and the start of the book. Boxing Day, 1997, Cuerden Valley Nature Park (car park).
You can read an extract of Cold Light here – it was published in The Manchester Review late last year.