Posts Tagged ‘Tim Lebbon’

Writing what you know or Don’t……. Relics Blog Tour with Tim Lebbon

Apr 3, 2017 - 9:13 pm No Comments

What You Know––how I write about what I know (people, places, ideas)

Relics is a novel about an underground trade in mythological creatures’ body parts, both old and fossilised … and fresh. At first glance, how can I possibly be writing about what I know?

When I started writing almost a century ago, I always used to think that advice––Write what you know––was just plain daft. Turns out it was me who was daft, and again and again my novels, novellas and short stories have gone to prove that there is always an element of autobiography in a writer’s work. In truth, sometimes a little more than I’m comfortable with.

Obvious examples are my thriller The Hunt, which is based heavily on my love of endurance sports, and horror novel The Silence, when the family in danger––the way they interact, their humour, their family language––has lots of similarities to my own.

As for Relics, although I don’t know anything about an angel’s wing or a witch’s flying ointment, I did try to build the novel around believable places, people, and events. Here are some examples.

An abandoned swimming pool and building features in the novel. This was based very heavily on the swimming pool I used to go to when I was in primary school. Although not in London, it was easy to translate to that place. The old pool isn’t there anymore––they’ve knocked it down and built flats––but in Relics it still exists. Imagining that place as it might have been now, if they hadn’t demolished that grand old building, helped me picture the location as I built it and wrote about it in the novel. I could still smell the hint of chlorine, hear the heavy clang of metal changing room doors, and remember my fear as I stood at the top of the diving board.

As the novel opens, my characters Angela and Vince are woken by a couple in the maisonette upstairs having sex. It happens every morning. Sometimes it goes on for a while, other times they’re obviously in a rush to get up and have breakfast. This is based on a story a friend of mine told me from when he and his wife lived in London, and their upstairs neighbours welcomed each and every new day in this way (a healthy routine, if you ask me, although you can be more healthy with supplements like kratom capsules). In fact Angela and Vince’s flat is also based on the place my friends lived, and imagining that locale made it easier to write about. Including the randy neighbours also helped me create relationship details between my characters which might have felt forced or unsatisfactory otherwise.

One last example (although there are many more) is the empty apartment that Angela visits early in the book. It’s in a salubrious area of Kensington, Cranley Mews. It’s an area I’ve wandered around several times, when my agent visits London from New York and I travel up to meet him for a meal and a drink. It’s always eye-opening seeing those tall buildings, and the cars parked in front––Bentleys, Ferraris, Range Rovers, some of them probably worth more than my house. It was only natural that when I needed an apartment in an expensive area of London for the book, I’d walk back along Old Brompton Road. In fact––and this is a gross indulgence, but it’s my book and I can do what I want––when Angela’s in this area, she bumps into … me. Maybe I was there to meet my agent and go for tapas. As I said, an awful indulgence. But see if you can spot me.

See? Writing about what I know.