The Next Big Thing – Ibrahim & Reenie

4 Dec

Shining Typewriter

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been tagged by both Scott Handcock and Scott Harrison in this ‘Next Big Thing’ chain blog. The basic premise is that it’s a chance for writers to talk about whatever they’re working on right now, answering a set series of questions before passing the baton on to other writers.

You can read about Mr Handcock’s ‘Next Big Thing’ hereand Mr Harrison’s right here.

Sadly, almost all of my writer friends have already been included in the chain, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to pass it on any further than its already gone. But here are my answers…

What is the working title of your next book?

Ibrahim & Reenie.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

My Auntie Chris. I was visiting her and my uncle, I think it was Christmas 2008, and she told me about an old woman who was attempting to walk from Cardiff to London. Apparently she kept all her belongings in a convoy of supermarket trolleys and was camping next to a dual carriageway. I tried looking into the story but couldn’t find anything about it online, and my auntie couldn’t remember the woman’s name, or the outcome of the story. Originally I’d thought I might write a factual account of it, a piece of non-fiction, but I couldn’t find enough information, so it stayed as a single line in one of my notebooks until around August 2009, when I worked out how I would turn the basic premise into a novel.

What genre does your book fall under?
That blandest-sounding of all genres… General fiction. I don’t want to say “literary fiction”, because that’s a horrible term, and it sets you up for one hell of a fall if people think it’s not very “literary”, but it’s definitely not sci-fi or any other specific genre.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d love to say I hadn’t given it any thought, but of course I have. If he was 10 years younger and a few stone heavier, Kayman Novak (Fonejacker) would be great as Ibrahim. Reenie was based in part on a friend of mine from East London who always reminded me of Laila Morse (Mo in Eastenders), and she was fantastic in Nil By Mouth, but they’d have to make her look 75. There are some flashbacks to Reenie’s childhood, and I think Mark Rylance would be perfect as Reenie’s father.
Left to right: Kayman Novak, Laila Morse, Mark Rylance

Left to right: Kayman Novak, Laila Morse, Mark Rylance

So, you know… If I get trampled to death by stampeding cows between now and when the book’s published, and my untimely death results in it securing a movie deal, let it be known that these are my wishes.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s impossible to summarise a novel in one sentence without it sounding unbearably cheesy, but here goes:
A 75-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man meet on the 160-mile road from Cardiff to London and while making their way on foot from one city to the next discover they have much more in common than they think.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I wouldn’t know how to self publish even if I wanted to! I haven’t got the business head for it. No… Thankfully it’s being published by the same people who handled my first two novels.
Did I mention I've written books?

Did I mention I’ve written books?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
A very first draft? Two, maybe three months. A first draft I was happy with? About a year and a half. And even after I’d sent it to the publisher and they’d given it the thumbs up, I still carried on making changes to it before receiving a single note from my editor. You could argue it’s a first draft right up until you’re reworking it following feedback, in which case the first draft took closer to two years.
It looked exactly like this.

It looked exactly like this.

 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I hate questions like this, because as soon as you compare your book with another, people will measure it against that work, and if it’s an established, critically acclaimed  novel (and why on earth would you compare it to something else?) you run the risk of coming a very poor second!
It mops the fucking floor with all of these.

But it mops the fucking floor with all of these.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The feeling that my second novel, Everything Is Sinister, was a relentlessly nasty book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very proud of it. For one thing, it’s a novel written in 2007 that predicts a near-future in which tabloid newspapers are out of control and behaving like a kind of salacious secret police. But it’s just so negative, and it’s so heavy with irony, and it’s all a bit arch. I think I’d read far too much J.G. Ballard and Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk in my twenties, and it shows.
I wanted to write something very different to that, something that wouldn’t leave the reader thinking the world was a terrible place populated only with awful people. And I wanted to write something more ambitious, with characters who weren’t just thinly-veiled versions of myself. There are bits of me in Ibrahim and Reenie, but for the best part they’re both very different, and I really enjoyed the challenge of that.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s funny, it’s sad and it’s epic. And it features a cockatiel called Solomon.

One Response to “The Next Big Thing – Ibrahim & Reenie”

  1. psychedk at 3:13 pm #

    Funny, the other day I was thinking that shamefully I had only read your Torchwood/Who related stuff. Then on the bus on my way to work I read this blog entry, and being a big Bret Easton Ellis fan myself I immeditalely bought Everything is Sinister (bless the Amazon app)! You pretty much listed all my favorite adjectives when describing it, haha!

    Your new novel sounds really lovely, though! I admire your diversity 🙂 Will definitely read it when the time comes.

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