When I was eighteen, I set off backpacking around Europe alone. As I have throughout my life, I kept a detailed journal of my thoughts, adventures and misfortunes while travelling. I don’t ever write my journals to be read again – it’s about the process, not the product. But, when I knew I wanted to write a story partly about the exploits of an 18-year-old backpacking around Europe in 1980, I had to force myself to sit down and work through what I had written all those years ago.
While typically self-obsessed and morose in parts, my teenage observations turned out to be generally better-written than I had feared, providing a rich primary source for what was, in essence, a piece of historical writing. I even lifted chunks verbatim. I wonder if the youthful me would have been quite so revealing had she known she would be plundered in that way.
While I use the detail of my diary for The Long Fall, I have to emphasise – largely because my mother might be reading – that most of the actual happenings in the novel are fictional. The question I wanted to look at was how it was possible for a basically good person to live a life – growing up, marriage, kids – with the knowledge that they were responsible – albeit in an unguarded, impossibly difficult moment – for the worst transgression a person can commit.
To this end, the novel has two time frames – the diary-form 1980 and the present day, and the action hinges around the certainty that even if it is possible to survive by finding a pocket for one’s misdeeds, the past that produced them has a habit of rearing up and ripping it wide open…
The Long Fall by Julia Crouch is published by Headline