It’s my favourite time of year, and also the hardest time of year.
While I hunt for representation for Nimbus (a search which is starting to prove productive, but the process is slow), I’ve been getting on with some other stories. City of Dis is one of them, but I have to be in the right mood for that. It’s an incredibly personal novel and it pains my heart to write it. But it must be done, and it will. Until then, though, I’ve recently had my thoughts settling on other things.
Trees in November was first written as a screenplay, over ten years ago. It’s arguably as dark, if not darker, than City of Dis, and the story is quite upsetting to go through. Like Dis, and as its name suggests, it starts in November. It’s a story about loss, about obsession, about disintegrating mental health, and about how a person might cope with it. And more than that, it’s a snippet of how things were in 2005. The world I went to college in was very different from today. I couldn’t have known all the fantastic things just around the corner, and I couldn’t have known how strange seeing and reading all this work has made me feel. Not nostalgic, that would be the wrong word. But it is strange because it’s familiar; it’s a part of my history.
The story isn’t about me, but it’s from my world. South-East England, Nokia texts, fifteen years old hanging out at local community centres for rock gigs, avoiding townies shouting ‘greebo’ at anything that looked slightly alternative, sneaking out to that one cool friend’s house party because they lived on an estate and their parents didn’t care if we binge-drank all evening, going down the skate park, lugging massive guitar cases and amps round our small nowhere town to jam at friends’ houses after school, pretending we weren’t getting drunk in the park. My world was waiting back at home for time on the family computer because yeah, we had our own computers by then but there’s only one dial-up modem connection, using chat rooms and Myspace and getting three pounds eighty per hour for working at the local supermarket to fund getting to more gigs.
And so it goes. Many of us were not healthy, and many of us could have done with more help. But the support networks back then weren’t anything like today. You could find outlets in some online forums, but there was nothing like the connectedness I experience now. Living in a nowhere town, you realise how much it was a closed loop; it fed into its own understanding of how to cope with problems. I really can’t comment on whether it’s better or worse than ten years earlier or ten years later, but the important fact is that it is different, and I can really feel it. I gave myself a shock, going through my old folders, and finding some of the cutouts, the printed word of my own obsession, still from that time. It’s not healthy to hold on too long when your attempts at getting better involved bad habits, but it is important to get that story out if that’s what it takes to work through it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s a stupid month to be doing it in, but it certainly gives it more feeling. Sometimes I think I need to be in that place to wring out the most emotion from it.
Most of my stories seem to take place in the dying light, in that place where hope seems to fade along with the seasonal leaves and you’re faced with the prospect of a cold, hard winter. There will be a spring, there always is, but the question is whether you’re there to see it or not. Some things drag you down places dark and hopeless, and exploring those landscapes is just as important and necessary as fighting back against them is for making your way back out of them again.