by Danny Wallace
Jason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street.
And then, just like that, she was gone – accidentally leaving him holding her old-fashioned, disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos…
And now Jason – ex-teacher, ex-boyfriend, part-time writer and reluctant hero – faces a dilemma. Should he try and track The Girl down? What if she’s The One? But that would mean using the only clues he has, which lie untouched in this tatty disposable…
It’s funny how things can develop…
Tell us the story behind the story. What was the inspiration for CHARLOTTE STREET?
I suppose it was that moment that I think is universal: you spot someone. And that someone seems like someone you should know. And that someone seems like someone who’d love to know you. Not just know you, either – but spend the rest of their life with you, sipping wine, travelling the world, raising kids, laughing at your stupid jokes, buying you socks because they notice you’ve run out of good ones even before you do… and then they’re gone. You were near them maybe five seconds. But you imagined a whole world around them.
I think everyone’s had one of those moments. I have a friend who seems to have them every day. But I started to think about what would happen if you could actually follow up on one of them…
What was the most challenging aspect of writing CHARLOTTE STREET?
Exactly that. Writing it. I had the beginning. I thought I had an end I could get to. But it turns out that novels need a middle bit. So it was probably the middle bit that was hardest. But that’s also, looking back, where it was the most fun. Coming up with people, putting them in places I know well, thinking about who they are and how they got that way… but that’s also incredibly hard at times. Luckily my study has an Xbox and a big TV so I had an escape…
What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?
Make it happen.
Describe your background.
I’m sitting in front of a wall.
Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?
I had to teach myself a new way of writing, for this. I’ve found I adopt a different approach for a novel… compared to the other sorts of writing I do. A different mental approach. I have to almost trick my brain into not worrying about it. I never ordinarily worry. I’m fortunate that the words come easy. As I write this, I’m eating a banana and juggling. But with the novel, I had to come up with ways of making the process easier, which I achieved, and which in my retirement I will reveal and charge people many hundreds of dollars to learn, as they peel my grapes in some chateau in the South of France.
Nowadays, though, as a 35-year-old man with a toddler, I get up, wake up, make a lot of tea, sit down at my computer, catch up on the news, switch the TV on to a news channel (sometimes BBC, and sometimes an American channel), make more tea, get some writing done, wander downstairs to make a sandwich, then hit it hard in the afternoon.
If I’m writing at night, progress is only possible if fuelled by a bottle of wine.
What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?
Right now? Jon Ronson’s Lost at Sea, one of the funniest essayists in Britain. David Baddiel’s novel, The Death of Eli Gold, which I’ve only just started but which is ridiculously impressive. And the Illustrated History of the Beano, which is all about a comic I grew up reading in Scotland, and which I’m making a documentary about.
Which authors inspire you?
People who can make you laugh while they make you think. People who do something I never could. People like PG Wodehouse for their comic sensibilities and relentless output.
What are you working on now?
A sitcom script for ABC in your fine country, the beginnings of a new novel, and also I host a radio morning show here in the UK every morning from 6am, which keeps me busy enough for now. [Update: Here’s a link to news about Danny’s television show]