There has been one enormous difference for me between writing my latest novel, The Cruellest Game, and any of my previous books.
This time I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of the writing process.
I have made a living out of writing of some sort since I was 17 years old, initially as a journalist and occasionally producing non fiction books.
Considering myself to be very much a professional scribe I’ve always before been puzzled if anyone asked me if I enjoyed writing. It was work wasn’t it? My job. I did it for a living.
Yes, I had great fun as a journalist, specialising in showbusiness I travelled the world attending film festivals, visiting film locations, and spent several weeks every year in Los Angeles. But Fleet Street was both demanding and extraordinarily stressful. Great if things were going well and you were bringing in the stories. However failure wasn’t tolerated. Not in my day, anyway.
And yes, I always loved thinking up ideas for my novels, particularly the eureka moment when you know you’ve got a good one. And, of course, the arrival of a new hard back is always a big thrill.
But writing, whatever it may look like from the outside, is tough work.
Dragging the first draft from the recalcitrant recesses of my beaten-up brain has all too often felt like trying to pull my own teeth out.
This time, with my tenth novel, it wasn’t like that. After a break of several years, and with a new publisher, maybe I was just ready.
Whatever the reason, from the moment I first sat before my computer screen in my office, with my usual large mug of builders tea to hand, calling upon the rolling Somerset hills I see from my window to give me inspiration, I really wanted to write The Cruellest Game.
It’s a psychological thriller, set on the great Devon moorland of Dartmoor, and like most of my books the idea came from a press report. The book focuses on the violent destruction of a seemingly perfect family when it is revealed that one of the family members has been hiding a devastating secret and indeed living a lie for many years.
I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that I didn’t have some days of total displacement activity whilst writing it. My personal favourites are playing backgammon on line, chatting to friends on the phone for so long they’re left with little choice other than to hang up on me, suddenly remembering emails which must be immediately written or replied to, and on line shopping. Which can be dangerous!
But with The Cruellest Game I settled, with surprising ease for someone very bad at establishing any sort of routine, into pretty much a regular pattern of morning writing followed by walking the dog, then fairly idle afternoons, watching cricket, reading, pottering in the garden – or even taking a little siesta.
One way or another I avoided most of my usual writing agonies, and I kind of hope I may have produced a better book because of it. But, ultimately of course, that is a judgement I can only leave to the reader…
The Cruellest Game,by Hilary Bonner is published by Pan Macmillan