Just about a year ago, when the world seemed a more innocent place than it does now, I had a conversation with my editor at Piccadilly Press, Tilda Johnson. It wasn’t the first conversation we’d had. In fact it was probably the last in six months of conversations by phone and email that had been circling around what kind of book I would write next.
Before Tilda, I’d been having that conversation with Sara O’Connor, about the same book.
It had been going on for the best part of a year and it felt like the third wish. The last book in a contract, what was is going to be? It needed to be good, heartfelt, emotionally true, compelling, funny in parts, sad in parts. I needed to believe in it, Tilda needed to believe in it.
The date was 16th July, and I started, once again to put down an idea on paper. But this idea was different, it came from somewhere else, definitely not my head. It came too fast to ram into a synopsis, it was running out of me like sand and I felt the need to tell Tilda really quickly before it disappeared.
I spewed out Amy’s story, Zelda’s story, the book’s story – and Tilda listened. At the end there was a silence and she said: “I sense that you really want to write this?”
I realised that I was going to write it anyway, whether or not she liked it.
“Yes,” I said. “I really do.”
It had to go to various channels, editorial meetings, sales chats in which an incomplete synopsis and a hasty first chapter stood their ground. It was called Phone Box Baby.
By 29th July it had a new title. Bus Stop Baby.
I promised it would be written by the end of September – ” Hurrah!” replied Tilda, “I knew this was special as soon as you started pitching it on the phone – it feels very real already somehow.”
I began writing on 3rd of August and by the 19th August, there was a first draft.
Even for me that’s fast.
It wasn’t the end of drafting – that went on for months, and backwards and forwards it went, some parts getting bigger, others smaller, but a remarkable amount of it went through just as it was written – straight from the heart.
Bus Stop Baby is published today. £5.99 Piccadilly Press.