The new novel, How The Stars Shine, seems to have stronger love themes in it than I'd planned, or than I've done before. It's not a romance, by any means. I can't say much without risking spoilers, but I'll note that love takes many forms, and more than one appears in the story.
It wasn't planned. Stories take their own shape sometimes, just as characters do - or should, if they're any good. I'll reach a certain point and a character will want to do something I hadn't considered before. That's good, it shows the tale has life thrumming through it, and unexpected things may happen. If I don't know for sure what's coming down the line, the reader isn't likely to. But this time, it's got me thinking. Stars is the first from-scratch novel I've begun since I met my wife. Everything else was at least blocked out before then, and largely written. Its broad form was set. Stars was not, and it's changing in my hands.
Could this be, do you think, because I have love in my own life at last?
I remember I said to Caz, before we were married, that I wasn't sure I felt love in the way that other people do. There have been signs of it. Me not crying while my whole family wept at the funeral of my grandfather, things like that. I'm known as a distant man, unapproachable as one of my friends called me - and if that's what my friends think, how must I seem to people who have only just met me?
Caz broke through these walls of mine without trying. I noticed one day that she was already inside my castle, having a good rummage about and putting pictures on my walls. And I didn't mind. Hmm, I thought. Interesting. Again, not love as most people know it, eh? Then came the babies, Bella and Evie. Bells will be two next week. And with them, no doubt at all, I have learned to love the way everyone else does. Overwhelmingly, swept-along-in-a-flood helplessly loving them. I know now that all my doubts about love were rubbish. I can feel it fine. I just hadn't found the right place and time before.
So love is a part of me now, and I guess it's finding its way into my work. That's OK. I'm not going to end up being Barbara Cartland. My stories will still be Fantasies, there'll be magic and derring-do and hopefully some strange cultures that the reader hasn't seen before. But maybe there will be a softer tone, just now and then, and you know, that's OK too.