The Very Thought of You first came to public attention in the Minerva anthology New Writing 3, edited by Andrew Motion and Candice Rodd. Back then it was called Eyes Averted and was a taut 2,500 word literary short about a boy who falls in love with an old man’s dead wife.
It was one of my first pieces of fiction to be published and no small achievement for a writer who was a university student at the time.
I had the good fortune to read the story to a lunch-time audience at the Birmingham Readers & Writers festival, sharing a platform with Andrew Motion, Jim Crace and Michèle Roberts, all of whom expressed admiration for the way I’d held the audience with the story.
I naturally thought literary stardom was just around the corner. Perhaps it wasn’t the best month to emigrate to Hungary and disappear off everyone’s radar.
As successful as that story was, the frustrating thing about it was that it had been mined from a much longer novella that examined the relationship between Jez and Harold in the wider context of the visiting centre, with its array of characters, and that depth was sacrificed for intensity.
Incidentally — and to most people this is going to make me sound like a time travelling Victorian — that original novella was written so long ago that it only exists on actual paper, written with a typewriter, rescued from a cardboard box in which it has been filed for twenty-two years.
And this is the beauty of the whole indie-publishing revolution. It allows writers to blow the dust off formerly successful stories for which legacy publishing can find no market (read ‘profit’) and allows us to give them new life again.
And that seems so utterly appropriate to the themes and concerns of this timeslip ghost story.
I had also obsessively written and re-written the story as a screenplay (called Fossils at first and later The Very Thought of You). I attempted to sell it as a supernatural drama, but its supernatural elements amounted to little more than a few moments of imagination on Jez’s part, and this blatant misregard for the Trades Descriptions Act raised the ire of at least one agent who’d taken the time to read it on the promise of its advertised genre, a mistake I promised myself never to make again. The story as it was then was plainly not a supernatural drama at all but a mere drama, possibly the most unsaleable genre in film.
So when it came to resurrecting the idea of the novella, stitched Frankenstein-like from the remains of the published short story (which you can read as a free download here), the screenplay and the original novella, I had a moment of inspiration — the kind that strikes you only later with how obvious it was all the time — why not actually, you know, turn it into a supernatural drama?
So here it is, hopefully in a format that raises no feelings of genre betrayal: a timeslip ghost story about a boy who falls in love with an old man’s dead wife.
You can purchase The Very Thought of You as an ebook or paperback edition. For the full list of buying options – including a signed copy direct from the author – go here.
And if you read it and like it, remember to give it a review.
Next up: book 4 in my 11-book venture, a euro romcom called The Budapest Breakfast Club.