Viva Brighton Issue #59 January 2018

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Lizzie Enfield

Notes from North Village

“Did you actually think that at the time? Or is

it something you made up afterwards to try to

sound clever?”

My son has caught the tail end of an interview I’ve

been doing to promote my new book. I was saying

something about the story being a metaphor for

life. Son is rolling his eyes but his question is fair,

damn him!

When I wrote the book, I was just writing a story. It

was only having finished that I began to reflect on

what it was really about. My intentions only became

clear with hindsight, which I realise is both an

oxymoronic and pretentious sentence.

I think most of us, when questioned about the paths

we’ve taken and decisions we’ve made, are able to

say with some clarity, after the event, why we did

this or decided that.

But if you’d been asked before, things would have

seemed less clear.

People ask: ‘When did you begin writing?’

And I reply that I’ve always written: that I wrote a

novel about a family abducted by dinosaurs when

I was eight, short stories all through my teens,

that I was diverted by journalism in my twenties

and journalism plus kids in my thirties but in my

forties I finally started writing the novels that were

always inside me just waiting to be hatched, like the

dinosaurs in the book I wrote when I was eight.

I make it sound like it was always a plan, that from

the age of eight I knew I wanted to be a writer and

that everything in between was a process of getting

there. But none of that is really true, or at least not

what I really thought at the time.

I did write a dinosaur book when I was eight but it

was more like an appointments diary with dinosaur

walk-on parts.

Wed. Went to the dentist. Brontosauruses in

waiting room.

Mon. Back to school. Pterodactyl in playground.

Not much imagination or any sign of early talent.

Really it was the talent of a colleague at the Sunday

Times who spurred me to write novels. His novel

was Sainsbury’s ‘Book of the Month’ and I had

to push past crowds looking at it when I went

shopping. I was jealous and when I tried to elicit

some sort of supportive comment from my husband

he just said: “If you never write your novel it will

never be published or be a book of the month.”

So I started. My first novel was sold in Tesco, with

a discount if you also bought cheese, the kind of

promotion I was after all along, or so I said in the

retelling of events.

My point is, when this mag’s editor said write about

plans, I know she wanted something about the year

ahead. But I always work backwards.

Wait till it’s over and I know what’s happened and

then I’ll make up something clever to say, as if that’s

what I planned all along.

Illustration by Joda (@joda_art)

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