As yesterday was officially the start of a new era (at least in my mind because my youngest daughter started school full-time), I will let you into a little secret.
I’m going to write a novel.
Of course, this isn’t nearly as momentous as it sounds. There is, as just about everyone will tell you, a world of difference between saying you’re going to write a novel and actually writing one. I have been doing the former since I was about 10 and have never done the latter. Then there’s the tricky, even impossible, business of finding an agent and a publisher. Then there’s selling more than two copies and tyring to ensure your publisher doesn’t go bust immediately after condescending to print your jottings. Not to mention the difficulty of what to wear at the Booker prize-winner’s dinner.
Hey ho, as Shakespeare never wrote. Faint ‘eart ne’er fucked a pig, as they don’t say up north.
You can follow my progress or otherwise here or on Twitter.
And to the question, which I’ll obviously get asked a lot over the next couple of years, of what it’s all about, it’s about a woman who kills her baby. Or possibly doesn’t. But anyway the baby dies.
And, no, it’s not in any way autobiographical nor is it an expression of my darkest urges or fears. It’s fiction, as in completely made up. I may plough into the book some of the frustration I felt as a newbie mum and even a seasoned mother of two. But I’ll also throw in some of the sheer joy and wonder that only children can inspire.
The book isn’t about me. If anything it’s inspired by cases like this one. These stories interest me. Read the initial news stories and you think Sally Clark was a drunk, unfit to breed dogs let alone children. Then, when she was acquitted, she became a wronged woman to whom everyone had been nice, even in prison. After she died accidentally of acute alcohol intoxication she was again a drunk who had been reviled in prison and failed to recover from the trauma of losing two children and being jailed for doing so.
So I’d say there’s plenty of scope there for a nuanced look at the perils of being a woman, and a woman who’s had children, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Talking of wronged, or possibly wronged women, what did we think of Criminal Justice which aired every night last week on BBC 1? Personally, I’m not sure the BBC needed five hours to tell the story of a woman given a harsh sentence by a judge who knew her slaughtered husband. If the point was criminal justice we guessed at the beginning that Juliet was an abused woman, that she’d murdered her husband out of desperation and probably while out of her mind and that she wouldn’t get a particularly good ride from the police and judiciary. You tend not to if you’ve just buried a six-inch knife in someone’s chest.
It was beautifully shot as a piece of television and I love watching Maxine Peake in any role. But beyond that I saw it as the cynical ratings grab it probably was – a 90-minute drama spun out to occupy the 9pm slot every night of the week like its predecessor, now known as Criminal Justice 1 which the BBC kindly points out is now available on DVD.
Ultimately, in this latest Criminal Justice series, the writing wasn’t nearly dense enough to sustain five hours of TV drama. Now one or two episodes of The West Wing could easily be re-written to occupy five instead of one or two TV hours, but that’s a different matter. And all this new autumnal viewing on TV is playing havoc with my slavish addiction to the West Wing box set. More repeats, please, then I won’t feel so guilty watching an outdated US TV series every night.