I had decided to write this book, two years before I commenced it. In my head I had absolute clarity about the story I wanted to tell. But I had no narrative to attach it to. I was in no hurry, my life was busy enough with other things. I went through countless ideas, through my waking and somnolent hours, but nothing stuck.
But one morning I woke abruptly, mid-dream, an unhappy hallucination that kept repeating itself. It was the trigger, it was my narrative. Suddenly I had a story line that I could hang my characters on, that I could use to build the emotional stress that I wanted to impart. I wrote it for me, as a catharsis, an attempt to understand, to release the shackles of remorse. By the end, I felt whole again.
And the pleasure was that it stood outside of the rest of my working life, it was my dirty little secret, and I was beholden to no one. I didn’t have to, or want to think about an audience – even though the story would dictate whom the readers might eventually be – it didn’t matter.
And because I was free, my characters could speak honestly. They didn’t need linguistic excellence, they were just ordinary people living ordinary lives – they weren’t speaking to the reader, they were dealing amongst friends. In fact I made it my responsibility to keep it ordinary, relatable, honest – it was more important to me, that my characters reflected real-life and all it’s indecency, than played to a demographic inspired by an imagined world order. It’s not Hollywood, it’s a common enough, small town provincial truth.
In that sense, I knew that it would be both inclusive and exclusive, all at the same time. Some would get it, and many would not. But mass appeal can only ever speak for the lowest common denominator, so why bother? I wrote it only for those who would know – after all, it was never my intention to poison the innocent? It was my intention to express the very real feeling of ‘together alone’.