Tuesday 17 September 2013

Where does it all come from?

The September Garden - a door into another world

'Where do you get your ideas from?' Yes, that's the question some writers dread the most. And the usual answer, once the enquirer has been met with an icy stare, is, of course, from life. Actually, I don't mind this question, because that tiny germ of an idea, that co-incidence, that glimpse through a door opening into another world that eventually ends up as a finished novel, fascinates me.

The idea for The September Garden was born when I chanced upon a published diary in a second-hand book shop: The Normandy Diary of Marie-Louise Osmont 1940-1944. This incredible account written by an ordinary woman who lived through the occupation and the subsequent Allied invasion, haunted me. It stayed with me for years. The fact that she witnessed this incredible event unfold around her not knowing, as we do in hindsight, what on earth the outcome would be intrigued me. I wanted to explore it, relay her experience in a story, try to do it justice.

I also wanted to bring the novel back to England and so I created half-French Sylvie from fictitious Montfleur in Normandy, who is staying with her cousin Nell in the Chiltern hills of Buckinghamshire and is marooned here when war breaks out. And at Nell's house in the country is a beautiful but neglected walled garden.

The September Garden itself came to me when I wasn't looking. I was reworking the book and needed a new title. I also wanted to create a metaphoric place of safety for Nell; the place to which she always returns for sanctuary, and the place where she buries her darkest secret. I was daydreaming, looking out of my window onto the allotments at the back of my house. It was one of those golden September days when the sun was slanting down on to sunflowers, crysthanthamums and plump apple trees, shining down on a garden at its very best in a transient moment of beauty

And so, in that fleeting pinpoint of time The September Garden was born.

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