It’s hard to know when a book begins. Perhaps Black Spring began when I was six years old and running over the bone-strewn turf of the Cornish moors with my sisters. I remember the boundless feeling of freedom: I loved the wind rushing over the bare hills, the granite tors that thrust out of the ground. The moors were my favourite place in the world then. Or maybe it began when I first read Wuthering Heights in my early 20s, and thought idly: I’d like to write a book like that one day. Or maybe it was in my early teens, when I first read Emily Brontë’s poetry.
Maybe a novel begins when you write the first words. I am good at starting novels: I have around five unfinished works on my computer, some quite substantial. Some of them end up being written, some of them don’t. They always begin with an image, or a feeling, or a voice or a thought. I follow this along for as long as it seems to last, and then I usually run out of ideas. I put it aside and wait to see if it is actually alive.
Black Spring began like that.
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