When people find out I’ve written a novel, one of the first questions I always get asked is ‘have you put anyone you know in it?’. I gather this is a pretty common question to ask a writer, and the usual response, from everything I’ve read and many people I’ve talked to, is to laugh merrily and say ‘of course not! It’s all made up out of my head,’ while frantically trying to remember if that anecdote I heard three weeks ago, that turn of phrase I loved so much when I overheard it in the cafe, that dirty laugh I tried so hard to capture in prose are all sufficiently anonymised so as not to offend or upset anyone.
The one thing that isn’t entirely made up in the world of my books is the geography of the village and the key locations. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve based the internal geography of Carters Cider on the Thatchers site, which I live about a mile and a half from. This was something I needed to do; after all, how else was I going to get inside a fully functioning multi- national cider producer! And the cider vats are central to the mythology of Far From the Tree, after all ;). The village geography is partially the one in which I live, with a smattering of other places, as and when necessary. The references to the landscape are an amalgam of a lot of the Mendip landmarks.
As far as events are concerned, plenty of actual real life social gatherings have influenced the novel’s narrative, as befits village life and the parish calendar. But when it comes to characters, I can safely say no-one from real life is featured! If they were, I’d be stalking the Strawberry Line hunting for Matthew Carter myself ;).
However, plenty of things do ring true, in passing. Just this weekend, the farcical nature of life with small children and a large dog provided me plenty of inspiration in the form of hunt the missing object. The object in question was my wedding ring, dually precious not just by virtue of my wedding, but also because it was my grandmother’s, and the mystery was where the hell the bloody thing had gone.
Having removed my rings on Saturday evening, and, rather stupidly, left them on the sofa, I was in a state of panic on Sunday morning when only my engagement ring could be found. After ripping the entire downstairs of the house apart, I came to the conclusion that they could only be in one place; the digestive system of Bertie, our seven month old Weimaraner puppy. I had two concerns; firstly, would nature take its course, and secondly, had the little bugger chewed it on the way down? My third concern, obviously, was the thought of having to look through what he was producing…
We banned him from anywhere but the garden for the day. We watched him like hawks for ten hours. We got the metal detector out and scanned the garden, the lounge floor and even the dog. Every time he deposited something in the garden, I donned rubber gloves. And, eventually, at six pm the following evening, the Hound produced something more valuable than usual. Thankfully, it was intact; not a tooth mark to be seen. After the ring had spent a night in bleach on the windowsill, I braced myself and put it back on, trying not to think too deeply about the journey it had been on.
The only question now is which character this happens to in Little Somerby 😉