It scared me deeply.
It became an enduring question. What makes us feel truly alive?
DH Lawrence scholars have also identified this question. They describe it as ‘aliveness’. ‘Aliveness’ is the sense that we are full of passions we don’t understand.
How do we live fully and fulfillingly? What is that anyway? What do we desire and chase, and where does that go wrong?
I’m also drawn to situations that are rich with metaphor. Situations that ask questions about memory, identity, people who are made fragile by a buried past, a future they can’t face. Unusual ways we can be haunted. How we seek people and places we belong with.
One of my guiding lights is Ray Bradbury, who described how he found more inspiration in the fantastic than in the everyday – although I do not write fantasy. Neither do I write science fiction, although one of my novels (Lifeform Three) uses SF traditions.
My Memories of a Future Life uses the conventions of the reincarnation story, turned the other way round. You might call that science fiction, or you might say it’s like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life or Iain Banks’s The Bridge – a kind of metaphysical licence.
But Ever Rest doesn’t have any SF or fantasy elements. It’s contemporary fiction. I prefer the definition used by Ursula K LeGuin – I am simply a novelist. I don’t fit in a pigeonhole. I’m all over.
My creative process is a search, as I explore an idea, but it’s just as true to say I let the idea explore me, reveal why it bothers me. I use temporary titles, which give me permission to be rough and experimental until the gaps are joined.
We’ve all heard about reincarnation stories where a person is hypnotised and put in touch with a past life. But if it’s possible to have a former life, might we have other, next, lives – forwards, down the line? What might we be doing to that person? What if you could see it? Who would do that? Why would they keep going there – and at the same time, dread what it might show them?
Welcome to My Memories of a Future Life.
Many years ago I bought a horse, and became aware that I was living in two worlds. One world was very technological, where computers filter our experience and enable us to function. The other world was very ancient, tuned to the rhythms of nature and the land. Moreover, the woodland I rode through was full of history, the remnants of an older world, which day by day we’re erasing with our buildings, vehicles and our trusted software. What kind of humans does that make us and what are we losing? Lifeform Three is a science fiction fable about an artificial human who works in the last oasis of countryside. His brain is regularly wiped so that he can perform efficiently, but when he starts to have dreams he realises he has personal memories he wants to find again – and keep, whatever the cost. More here
My third novel is Ever Rest. I had an idea about a man trapped in a glacier and the people who were waiting for him to emerge. While he’s there, their lives are also in stasis. And he’s a much-lauded musician, whose music is still played and celebrated. The music is itself a time capsule, keeping him alive and young, while the world ages. And the people who wait for him? They’re still held by that remarkable time with him and by the fans who lament his loss without having truly known who he was, or even appreciating that he was a person. The three people who wait need to move on, but until he’s found, they will not ever rest.
Read about it here.