I have just recently, after five years in the making, finished writing ‘The Tower’, final book of the Sanctus trilogy. Normally there is a period of several months between finishing a book and it coming out but this one left my printer and pretty much headed straight to ‘The’ printers. This was not entirely down to the difficulties of pulling all the multiple story threads together of the preceding books, or grappling with a tale that spans two continents, several thousand years and centres on the ‘end of days’ as prophesied in the book of revelation – though these things did play their part. In truth the main reason for my just squeaking in under the wire of the tightest of tight deadlines has a name – and that name is Betsy.
Betsy is my third child, the culmination of an entirely different trilogy, who arrived on 24th March last year when I was about fifty pages into the first draft of The Tower. It was pretty clear right from the off that she was different from my other two children in that she didn’t seem to need any sleep. AT ALL. From the moment she arrived my wife and I became shuffling zombies, taking it in turns to ‘do the nights’, meeting rarely, like inmates in a gulag, mainlining strong coffee and muttering things like ‘what were we thinking?’ and ‘you can see why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture’. It was incredible how quickly my brain turned to porridge and the simplest things like speech and remembering anything became almost impossible. In the end I got so far behind with the book that I had to move out for a bit and turn myself into a sort of writing/sleeping machine to try and catch up while my wife took one for the team and flew solo with the sleep-shunning monster we had created.
There is a particular irony to all this as I actually became a writer to try and spend more time at home with the kids. In a previous life I was a TV producer and director and when my son Stan was born (slept like a champion – still does) I was working on a live show called ‘The Big Idea’, sort of like an X factor for inventors (remember it? Thought not.). It being live and me being the producer I couldn’t take much time off and felt genuinely awful about it. It was one of the major spurs that made me make a change and finally write that book I’d always been promising myself. I can work at home – I told myself, I can be around for the kids. Then Betsy came along and made me (almost) wish I was back in the studio, doing the midnight edits and writing gags for Richard Bacon again. All of which made me realise something I had long suspected: being a mother is the single hardest job in the world. And in a strange way all of this fed into the story I was writing, which deals with the exact same themes of fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, only on a slightly more operatic scale and with far more guns.
And now the dust has settled and the book is finished and delivered, Betsy is crawling and so can wear herself out a bit. The first evil teeth have popped through and she is – just about – sleeping through the night. So now I’m contemplating my next book and what to write next. It will be a thriller, for sure, maybe with a hero like Al Pacino in ‘Insomnia’ who is suffering from some form of horrendous, mind warping sleep disorder. After all, I’ve done the research – and they say you should write what you know.
Simon Toyne’s The Tower is published by HarperCollins