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I’m working on a new Naomi Blake novel and I’m really happy with the way it’s going, but I couldn’t shake off the strange feeling of déjà vu that kept creeping up on me at odd moments. There’s an older lady in this book called Molly and she was bothering me. Had I written something like this before? Had this character been in something else and I’d forgotten about her? And what was the African connection that kept nagging at me? And the scraps and snips of memory that Molly had about Cold War politics, but that just didn’t seem to be going anywhere so far as I could see. They were just there.

 

I went back through published novels and I wondered also, if she was just reminding me of Rina Martin. But no, Molly is her own person. Yes, she’s feisty, like Rina – I grew up around some very feisty women and I think that must have had an influence – but Molly hadn’t been conflated with Rina Martin; this was something else.

And then it hit me. I had written about Molly before, but only obliquely; she’d been someone’s wife in a novel I’d started waaay back in my writing career. Something I’d tried to put together somewhere between The Greenway (book one) and Bird (book three.) At the time I didn’t know how to make it work; the research was difficult and the location and the plot were too complex.

Once I realised this, I had to go back and find the book I’d started to write. This involved a foray into the Cupboard of Abandoned Projects. A dangerous undertaking on two counts. One being that if you open the doors, things tend to fall out, the second being that there is more than twenty years of nostalgia, ideas, memories, pictures, research notes and … well you get the idea, trapped inside. Let any of that out and it could take all day to round it up again.

It took me two days to find the old novel I’d been looking for, but there is was, on an old floppy disc, which lovely techie husband managed to sort out and put on my computer.

 

There must have been a point at which I stopped using floppies and started using a stick drive, but that, like the Time Before Internet, (TBI) seems so long ago, even though it obviously wasn’t.

 

Anyway. Molly and Edward were still there, in Brazzaville in 1961 and the notes I had made and the other characters who had been there with them and suddenly it all made sense. It’s taken years for my subconscious to figure out how to write the book I had the idea for way back then and I’d certainly never have thought of it as a Naomi book, but there it was, emerging. True, much of what I’d planned back then is utterly unusable – as it always was, hence it’s position in the Cupboard of Abandoned Projects – but touching the little bit of obsession, of inspiration, of that germ of a story I’d had was a really strange feeling. I guess all writers have tics and obsessions and themes and ideas that they circle back to from time to time and I suppose this is one of those times. I don’t expect, by the time I finish this novel, that more than a word or two of that original idea will remain, but I’m very glad I excavated it. I have rediscovered Molly and her history and those people she shared her life with and that has helped create a mystery for Naomi and Alec to solve and so I’m now happy.

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