Today, over dinner, a friend of a friend told me about a mythical creature called the haggis animal. The haggis animal looks like a sheep, but it has one leg longer than the other, and depending on which the longer leg is, the haggis animal walks at a particular face of a mountain. I was enchanted. In particular because the storyteller is a German who went to Edinburgh University to study Economics for a year (where he first heard about the haggis animal) and I think he rather fell in love with the city, especially Edinburgh Castle.
And that was what I told my daughter G: the places, the books and the people you spend your time with become you. Though my hometown is Portsmouth and my emotional attachment is with London (because that was where I brought my children up), a large part of me is inextricably Oxford. Read Catching Infinity and you will feel Oxford stirring your soul via the words of the story.
I knew from the start that I only have one book in me, and that book is Catching Infinity, yet my publisher wants three. Aaargh! Sure, I can just churn out rubbish books, but no. I don’t want to write inane books. Those words have to mean something to my readers; I want to write books that move people.
My new German friend who told me about the haggis animal also told me about a first-time author called Francesca Haig. He, the friend, bought the book and loved it. It was about a time in the future where humanity survived in the form of pairs of genetically “perfect” Alphas and sterile, “deformed” Omegas. All of the human race was composed solely of these pairs of Alphas and Omegas. “The twins were born together and they have to die together,” he told me. “And that was why the Omegas cannot be killed off.” He enjoyed the story so much and was delighted to find out that Haig had a second book out; he went round London bookstores looking for the second book. I loved the story of the twins. And of the haggis animal. I drew inspiration from him that night as I wrote the next instalment of my second novel.
My partner had never been much of a reader. As a child, he only read one book that he felt worthy of taking into his adult life, and that book is Jorge Luis Borges’s Book Of Imaginary Beings (left). It was recently republished, and of course, I bought a copy. The strangest thing was, though we were not planning to meet that afternoon, he ran into me at Foyle’s in London’s Waterloo as I was browsing through the book (right).
I love the Strandbeesten best. Here it is, though tonight, I am writing about another animal, one from the Scottish highlands.
Magic happens when you allow it to, because … pause and think about this for a minute … it is magic that we are here today, of the million, billions and zillions of possible permutations, yet here we are, born of stardust and born just perfect for the universe we live in.