I lived in London for nearly all of the 1990's. During that time I filled notebooks with scenes and ideas for a novel based there. I'd occasionally make a start on a story that combined all the elements of Dream London, but it never seemed to gel. I had the plot, I had the feel of the place... or so I thought. I shelved the idea and turned my attention to Twisted Metal and began the Penrose series.
The Penrose Series had a similar genesis to Dream London, there I had a great setting and a rough outline of a plot, but nothing was happening until one character, Kavan, came to life and basically defined the trilogy there and then. I'm often asked whether I plot my books or fly blind. The answer is both. I plot, I follow my characters and then I replot. I think that philosophy is partly what led to Cosmopolitan Predators! and Aethernet, the Magazine of Serial Fiction.
Two books into the Penrose series, personal circumstances meant I had to take a break from extended writing. When I returned to work on the third novel I had lost a lot of momentum. I felt I needed to try something different to get back into the rhythm.
And then, one day, a friend recounted an experience he'd had in India (the scene on the first page of the book, in fact) and the story for Dream London fell into place, just like that. Like dropping a seed into saturated solution, the book crystalized in my imagination practically whole.
Captain Wedderburn strode into the pages, looking dashing in his green jacket, but there was something about him that I thought was just too charming. I didn't trust him from the start. I dislike heroes: none of my books feature typical heroes. His name, by the way, comes from an folk song I heard performed by Bellowhead. That was as far as it went for folk, though. In Dream London I consciously listened to something more enchanted - mainly Mahler, Richard Strauss and Kate Bush. The evil accordion players early on in the book were a nod to the Penrose series of novels, much of which were inspired by folk songs and ballads.
The books that particularly inspired Dream London were by, of all people, those of Enid Blyton; particularly The Enchanted Wood. Partly because I read it when I was so young and everything is so magical then, but particularly because there is no logic to it. Magic there is just magic, it's never explained, it's never consistent, it's always enchanting. I can half remember other stories; the Wishing Chair, green smoke coming from witches cauldrons...
But mostly, the story was written within the recession, with people losing their jobs, having their pay cut, being denied the pensions they had saved for. The National Assistance Act of 1948 finally put paid to the workhouses, but events in the news give the sense that they are being reintroduced, piece by piece. In Dream London, the process was merely accelerated...
What next? Well the robots are calling me. I'm going to see if I can resume marching with them, perhaps to clockwork time.
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