Thursday 13 July 2017

Set in Hull, the UK City of Culture – a publisher’s nightmare author

Syrup TrapCity, due out in August 2017, is set in the UK in the northern port of Hull. It opens as Hull’s City of Culture year dawns. But in order for it to be published in that same City of Culture year I had to write it in advance. In the summer of 2016 I was writing about the winter that was yet to come, studying long-range forecasts. 
(Please, no snow. Why not? Think Poirot and mobile phones)

From the start, I nursed an ambition (kept from my publisher) to grab the manuscript back out of production at the last minute to add something iconic that marked Hull’s birth as UK City of Culture. A publisher’s nightmare, the author who insists on last minute changes.

Nonetheless, I intended doing it, but what would it be? I wasn’t going to bend the plot. I just wanted that iconic something-or-other in there. It would have to happen early in the year, so as to disrupt, as opposed to kill dead, the production of the book.

And the good people of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 presented me with the perfect event.

Blade was conceived byartist Nayan Kulkarni, and was one of the first of a programme of temporary artworks created for the city’s public spaces.

Blade was a 75 metre long, 25 tonne rotor blade; the world’s largest, handmade fibreglass component, and one of the first made at the Siemens factory in Hull. On the night of January 7th, it was transported secretly in an incredible feat of logistics and engineering, to be installed in the town centre bisecting Queen Victoria Square, reaching from Savile Street to Carr Lane, rising from street level (where pedestrians could run their hands over its smooth skin) to a height of over 5.5 metres at its tip, allowing double-decker buses to travel beneath.

The only dilemma for me was whose story should intersect with the Blade’s epic journey? Someone needed to spot that giant convoy in the small hours and wonder about it for a moment. Annie maybe; she tends to be out and about at night. Or restaurateur, Meriç, who would officially disapprove of the disruption and secretly delight in the extra publicity. It could be head waiter, Yağız, out trying to track Annie. Perhaps Ayaan and Cari Ahmed could come across it whilst out for a romantic stroll late that night. It might even be Max Corder striding the city streets as he checks his many and varied investments.

To decide who would have the job, I checked to see who was where, and who would be best in the role. I expected to have many options. I’ll bet those engineers thought they would have options too. But much in the way that Blade would fit one way, and one way only, in Queen Victoria Square, it turned out that Blade would fit one way, and one way only, in Syrup Trap City
What was my lone option? Sorry, no spoilers. It'll be out soon. Read the book.