Chasing Pavements Q&A

[WARNING: INCLUDES SPOILERS]


Q: What was the main inspiration behind Chasing Pavements?

A: Usually, it takes a combination of different factors and experiences to inspire a whole novel.  I take inspiration from good books, films, music, and of course anything interesting I know.  I also draw on my knowledge of Psychology.

You do need one or two triggers to start writing though.  For Chasing Pavements, it was this bizarre vision I woke up with on the morning of August 1, 2010.  I opened my eyes with Jamie in my head.  I could see him so clearly - his hair, his eyes, his demeanour.  As though he was a very good friend, I just knew him - his pain, his apathy, his past, his present.  What I didn’t know was his future.

But I wanted to find out.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about him, his life, his family, and music.  Christmas 2009 with Jamie and his family was the first scene that came to me that day.

Music had a critical part to play in it too.  That summer, I had been obsessed with Muse’s single Neutron Star Collision and I knew that song represented Jamie (and Mukti) when he first came into my life.  A fading star, losing his way.

The other song that had grabbed me was Marcus Foster’s I Was Broken (the lyrics speak of no longer being broken).  That was the song I wanted to represent Jamie (and Mukti) at the end of the book.  All year, I had been fascinated by the idea of two fading stars, coming together and then emerging brighter as one, and somehow this concept inspired the storyline.

Q: How did you start your novel?

A: The first scene I envisioned was Christmas 2009. It played in my head like a film - I didn’t dictate much of the action, it just rolled like a movie in my mind.  Astonishingly, I didn’t write that scene until the very end!

What I started with was the first encounter between Jamie and Mukti.  I had become very interested in the needle sculpture after seeing it for the first time that year and I wanted them to meet there.  As I wrote that scene, ideas for their next meeting came to me and I wrote that.  And then the next meeting, then the next…

Once I filled in the gaps between those scenes, I went back and wrote the beginning.  Strangely enough, the Christmas 2009 section in the final version of the book is very similar to the daydream I had on August 1, 2010.

Q: Do you have a writing routine?

A: I have a full-time job and get home at 7pm, so I have very little time to write, and I have to fit in my other responsibilities.  I wrote Chasing Pavements when I was still living with my family and things at home were pretty hectic.  Hardly any peace or quiet or privacy or time.  But I just couldn’t not write these amazingly awkward scenes between two intriguing characters.

I didn’t have my own desk or a comfortable chair.  I put my laptop on my bed, knelt on the floor and typed.  Not great for the knees!  But that’s something Jamie had to do too - put his keyboard on his bed, get down on his knees and play.  It was a bonding experience for us!

I would love to be in a position where I can write full-time.  When I write, I lose track of time and space and don’t feel hungry or thirsty.  I don’t feel the need to do anything other than sit with my laptop and write.  I’m the kind of person who would have a routine for each day, the week, the month.  And stick to it!

Q: What was your favourite thing about writing this novel?

A: Reading fiction for me (and the majority of people) is a form of escapism. It’s the same with writing, only you get to escape to a world you’ve created, spend time with characters you’ve brought to life, experience all the pain and pleasure and excitement that you envision.  That was great.

The best part though was getting to know Jamie and Mukti.  They have become a very big part of my life and I don’t think they will cease to feel like good friends to me for the rest of my life.

Q: Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

A: My favourite scene is definitely the first kiss between Jamie and Mukti, on the bridge, in the rain.  It’s the most iconic moment in the book, I think. Epic.

It was actually inspired by a story a former colleague of mine told me a few years back.  On the train home from work one evening, he was sitting next to a man and a woman who had seemingly just met on this particular commute.  They were talking about each other’s jobs, where they lived, and previously studied; the kind of conversation a normal guy would strike up with a girl he met on the train.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until the guy took hold of the girl’s collar and just kissed her!

Afterwards, the girl giggled, coyly.

My colleague had been convinced that they had only just met - how could they simply kiss like that?  Unfortunately, he departed the train before the couple so he couldn’t see how that little romance played out.

But I could imagine a whole love story around this incident and wanted to work it into a book.  It just didn’t materialise until 18 months later when Jamie popped into my head!
I would still like to write that train-kiss scene into a novel or short story at some point…

Q: Are the songs in the book original?

A: Yes.  All original.  All written by me.

A couple of the songs were written before Jamie/the book even existed (e.g. the first song in the novel, Square 1, was written almost exactly a year earlier); a few came after the first draft was complete.  I wrote a number of them while writing the sections the songs appeared in (such as One Half, which came to me at the same time as it came to Jamie in the hotel room), a few were composed especially for scenes I had already written, and the rest came during the time I was writing the story.

Q: If your book was made into a film, who would you cast in the main roles?

A: I keep going back to reading but when I read books, they play like films in my head. When I write, I’m actually writing about the movie rolling in my mind (they even have their own soundtracks). Its often celebrities/actors that play the roles of my characters.

It’s like directing these actors in my own film and apart from Mukti, the female lead of the book, the appearance of all the main characters are actually based on actors I like or those that look like how I want my characters to look

But that doesn’t mean I actually dare to dream that my book would be made into a film, or that it would have my ideal cast if it was adapted for the big screen.  That would be so crazy!

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