Well, I’ve done it. Written the first draft. A horror story set in the USA, where I’ve never been. It obsessed me for months, trying to find an idea and then trying to research, first the state, then the city. I hope I’ve got it right, or, anyway, that it isn’t ludicrous.
There’s no end of facts to research on a project like that. Even moving to the US might not be enough, really. Even if you emigrated, you only get to know a place when you’ve been there for a few years. This was something George Orwell noted in his essay on Henry Miller (I forget, for the moment, the title of the essay, and the exact quote). That writers do their best work in their home soil.
I was listening to American radio stations (an awful lot of adverts about retirement homes), looking up newspapers online, all the time feeling that this wasn’t quite the way. How do you learn the way a particular group of people speak, other than by eavesdropping? Ideally, I would have liked to log into some sort of CCTV network with sound on it. A terrific invasion of privacy, maybe, but it would be in the name of Art.
After a while, as time crept on, I decided that I had to start writing the story anyway, and kind of guess what I didn’t already know. It felt so good to be writing fiction again. Ideas came to me, holes in the plot began to seal themselves, characters came into sharp relief. Doing the thing I’m best at, after sex. I had a story to tell, a secret to impart, and a way of telling it.
It’s taken me a fortnight, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. Did you miss me? I missed you. But I had to finish this project, I had to prove to myself again that I’m a fiction writer.