My new book is being published in the UK next week (the US edition is coming in the Fall), so I thought I’d give it a few words of introduction, before it pokes its nose cautiously out into the world... Though actually, We Are Here has never been a diffident book. I wrote it because I had no choice. It made me do it.
Authors are often asked where they get their ideas – and I’ve got no good answer to the question, though I do have several facetious ones – but the truth is that ideas are cheap: it’s getting them written down that’s the challenge. For a long time I’ve used memorability as a test. When I get an idea for a novel (as opposed to an observation or random thought) I don’t write it down. If it’s going to be enough to hold my love and attention for the year it takes to steer a book to completion, then it needs to be strong enough to stick in my head until ‘m ready to start. The idea for We Are Here more than met this test. It just wouldn’t go away. I actually wrote two other novels in the meantime, but this idea just kept coming back to knock on the door and say: “Is it my turn yet? I’m not leaving, you know. Sooner or later, you and me... we’re going for it.”
And finally, I did. The book starts with David, a small town writer whose fortunes look set to take a sudden upswing, but are compromised by a strange encounter in a train station. It also involves John and Kristina, a couple recently moved to New York, and who become embroiled in trying to work out the identity of someone who may – or may not – be stalking a friend of theirs. In between these protagonists are many other characters (this is the biggest book I’ve done), members of the mass of humanity that form the backdrop of all our lives, and whose existence we ignore most of the time but who are out there living lives of their own – and in this case lives that are far stranger than you might imagine.
By the time John, Kristina and David’s lives have begun to intertwine, the truth is not far behind. I can’t talk too much about what happens next without compromising the novel – in novels of suspense, the characters’ journey from ignorance to bewildered knowledge is an important element of the story, and I want the reader to come along on that ride. But I can say that We Are Here is my most concerted attempt yet to deal with the creativity and life force inherent in all of us, and what happens when it’s frustrated or curdled; with the complexities of friendship and love; with the schism between childhood and the adult world and what may be carried through from one to the other — and what may also fall by the wayside, and at what cost.
Most of all it's an attempt to blend the power and drive of a thriller with a story that squares up to the eerie strangenesses of our world, the things we try to discount and push aside because they make no sense – when in fact they’re all too explicable, once you’ve realized what’s going on: realized, or remembered... or been forced to recall.
We all forget things, and forget people, and forget our dreams. That doesn’t mean they forget us. They may be prepared to do anything to make us remember, too, to make their presence felt.
Anything at all.