Time for an embarrassing confession.
The other day I was chatting to some colleagues about job interviews, and the question came up, ‘If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?’ So then we had to go round the group and ask everyone. When it was my turn, I answered without hesitation that if I could do any job in the world, I’d write books.
Ever since primary school, I’ve wanted to write stories for a living. It’s a dream I’ve never quite let go of, even though there have been times when it’s seemed like an impossibility. But maybe it isn’t; I love writing this blog, and the fact that people want to read my random wafflings is a massive encouragement. So who knows what might happen in the future? 🙂
Of course, me being me, I only want to do it if I can do it well. So I want to write books that people can’t put down, that they talk to their friends about – and maybe argue about a bit, too. I’m not talking Harry Potter level; I don’t want to have to change my name to publish a follow-up, but (obviously) I don’t want to write something that nobody wants to read.
Recently I’ve read a couple of books that fit those criteria. They’re very different, but I was just as addicted to both, and I’d have been just as happy to have written either of them.
I started reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn based solely on a recommendation – I’d seen it on Amazon but didn’t think it sounded like anything special. Nick Dunne’s wife disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, and he soon comes under suspicion from the police and his neighbours. I’ve read a few thrillers like this, and assumed Nick would be the usual innocent hero fighting against the odds to clear his name and save his wife. Not true – he’s not only completely flawed but it’s soon obvious that his marriage to Amy was pretty messed up and that he doesn’t necessarily miss her as much as he should. The chapters from Nick’s point of view alternate with extracts from Amy’s diary, leading us as readers towards an inevitable conclusion. But then there’s a twist, and suddenly everything’s different.
I loved the unexpectedness of the novel; nothing is quite as it seems and it makes you question your own assumptions. It’s also a pretty damning portrayal of how the media can play a huge role in convicting someone – ‘With the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, there’s no such thing as an unbiased jury anymore.’ Nick finds himself not only trying to convince the police of his innocence but also worrying about his public image and how he should be reacting to the whole situation.
The other book was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I’m a big fan of hers and love the way she writes: witty (I have been known to laugh out loud on the train – bit embarrassing), clever and really getting to know the characters. This can be annoying for some people; something as simple as a trip to the shops leads to several pages of recollection about an earlier incident in that character’s life. It’s great if you like to explore character development, but not so much if you just want to know what happens next in the story.
Life After Life reminded me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to read growing up, where you were given different options at certain points and whatever you chose affected how the story turned out. If the option you chose led the story to an early conclusion, you could just go back and try the other one. The main character in Life After Life, Ursula, is able to go back and re-live her life each time it ends, and each time, a single choice can make all the difference to how things turn out, not only for her but for those around her. It’s intriguing to know how each decision will change the course of her life, and, let’s be honest, who hasn’t at some point wished they could go back and do things differently? But then there’s the other side of that argument – if you could do it all again, would you ever be happy with the life you had?
Both these books are real page-turners, but they also make you think. And in both cases, you think you know where the story’s going, only to be thrown off course by a sudden turn of events, which is my favourite kind – I hate predictable storylines (which is why I love Game of Thrones). They even made me enjoy my two-hour commute to work. If I can do the same for someone else one day, I’ll be a happy lady. And even if I don’t, as long as I keep finding books that do it for me, that’s ok too 🙂