Today as part of my Carina UK feature I have a fab guest post written by author A.L. Michael giving us an insight into the inspiration behind her latest novel The Last Word.
How did The Last Word begin? Well, I distinctly remember scrabbling around for a spoon in my parents’ kitchen and thinking ‘Tabitha Riley- fuck that’s a good name for a character.’ The development of the story was more nuanced and varied. I was single for the first time in a few years, I’d gone off travelling after finishing my masters degree, and I was living in my parents’ house in London. I had thought that travelling around Australia and America would offer up these insights into romance, I’d thought I’d go off and fall in love once a day. And in many ways I did. With someone’s smile, someone’s laugh. I fell asleep on the coach with my earphones in, listening to Adele and thinking ‘yeah, that’s what love is.’
But I wasn’t looking for love, I was looking for a story. And real life love stories never seem to be as interesting. So I came home, recommenced working at Starbucks, and decided to write my own love story. I’d already written a novel the year before, a coming of age drama called Wine Dark, Sea Blue, which ended up being published whilst I was writing The Last Word.
The Last Word was meant to be catharsis. It was just for fun, just for me, and I never expected to show it to anyone. I just wanted to become Tabby, wanted to fall in love with Harry, laugh with Chandra and Rhi, and find a way of expressing what it felt like to be a twenty-something writer who was still partially dependent on her parent.
Harry was inspired by the character Harry in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, but in looks and name only. Awkwardly enough, that character was played by Paul Nicholls, who I then ended up serving in Starbucks one day (I worked down the road from the film/TV studios). I’m standing there making a latte, bright red, thinking ‘I just wrote you into a sex scene last night.’ Awkward.
It seems so long ago now that I can’t remember writing it. I remember sitting in a deck chair on holiday with it all printed out, editing and editing over and over again, before I submitted it to Carina. I remember having no expectation, but feeling proud of it all the same. I wrote the story for me, and it did its job. It made me believe that there was romance, and excitement and sarcasm and humour and love in the real world, as well as the fictional one. We may never be as quick witted or as clear in our intentions in the real world, and there isn’t always butterflies and sweaty palms. But writing the novel made me feel like it did. I wrote into creation a guy with dark hair and light eyes and a loud laugh who got under Tabby’s skin and made her question everything she knew. And a few months after writing that, I found a guy like that of my own.
Rhi and Chandra are based on a mixture of my friends, their kindness, their staunch determination, their ability to stay still and become absolutely lazy on Nothing Days. Their friendships are strong, and in many ways, The Last Word isn’t just about falling in love, but it’s actually a story about trust. Trusting that it’s okay to lean on someone, that it’s okay to fall and not be sure if they’ll catch you. Trusting that even if you fall, you have the strength and the support to get back up.
Well, that and the importance of wine and chocolate in dire situations.
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