It took me maybe three months to draft the whole 120,000 words of “The Big Frog Theory” – known colloquially as “Nev”. Largely because of a fantastically positive change in personal circumstances one February about twenty two years ago, I just sat down and started – ‘In a Malvern tea-shop he sat, watching the steam from his coffee filter rise unevenly above the rim of a faded white cup.’ – and finished when I got to the end!
It was an amazing experience. A whirlwind of creative effort with a story that simple sucked me in and pulled me along. I was almost both writer and reader at the same time, never being entirely sure of what I was going to find on the next page: “where did that come from?!” I believe – and hope! – some of that writing experience is transferred to people who read “Nev” as they too are whisked along on the journey.
In terms of genre, I had never tried anything like this before. When a slice of Black Forest Gateaux started talking…well! You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather. After that there were no boundaries: singing cows, amphibian taxi drivers, dancing clothes… Why not?!
And whilst there is a lot of fun in the book, I hope that there’s an undercurrent of the serious too. Neville is one of my ‘Everyman’ characters: on a journey, looking for something – even if he isn’t entirely sure exactly what that might be. I suspect (and it wouldn’t take a genius to work this one out) that there’s a bit of a reflection of me in there somewhere too – though luckily I haven’t needed to endure all the things he had to…!
It’s a book that has a positive conclusion; an outcome which suggests that, in the end, things will work out ok. Not all my work has such a positive tone – which I think makes for a much more interesting, balanced and realistic oeuvre. But if you fancy some fast-paced, flighty, magic fun, “Nev” might just fit the bill…
[By the way, in case anyone questions the originality of the chess scene in the book, I had drafted the entirety of “Nev” by May 1995, two years before “The Philosopher’s Stone” appeared in 1997.]