I was always being told off as a child for day-dreaming. It's not an activity that's valued, especially at school.
How wrong they were. It turns out that day-dreaming is one of the most important elements in writing fiction. The more I can lose myself in my latest story, persuade myself that I am writing about real people, the better the writing goes. It's a strange process though - persuading yourself that imaginary people are real, capturing them on the page and then letting go of them again.
So just think how surreal it was for me last week to find myself in a room surrounded by characters that I had invented. What's more, they were singing lyrics based on the words I'd written, and instead of the London accents I'd imagined they were speaking in broad Lancastrian/Scottish/Yorkshire. There were moments when I felt as though I'd strayed into a dream.
In fact, I was in Carlisle, working with students on the University fo Cumbria's musical theatre course to develop the musical of my book Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, alongside director John Brant, choreographer Cressida Carre and Musical Director Harriet Oughton, and Andy and Wendy Barnes from Perfect Pitch, the organisation which is developing the musical.
It was something completely new for me - I've never been involved in the theatre at all - but it's actually the culmination of an ambition that I'd completely forgotten about. When I was a teenager I loved musicals, and I longed to write a musical - but I had no idea how to go about it, and so - typically - never even gave it a go.
We started with thedialogue from the book, and part of the week's work was to identify which characters translated quite easily to the stage - Jack, Lia's laddish friend, for example - and which ones needed considerable rewriting - Raf, Lia's mysterious crush. For me that involved a certain amount of analysis - what had I hoped to achieve by writing something in that way? How could I create the affect I wanted?
I spent most of Tuesday in the Travelodge in Carlisle (a fantastic place for writing, by the way, large light rooms, no internet in the bedrooms and peace and quiet. If I ever disappear near deadline time that's where you'll find me). re-writing Act One. I had to leave before the end of the week, but it was a complete joy to watch John, Harriet and Cress working with the students, creating scenes based on the book and helping them develop their ideas and skills. As for the students - I can't wait to come up to Carlisle again and see how you've got on, you achieved so much in only three days.
I'm writing two books at the moment - that's why you haven't heard much from me on this blog. One book is due mid-December. Another is finished - the first draft anyway - and I am itching to rework it second time around. Add to that the work I need to do on the musical, and organising my lovely son's barmitzvah (January), and you can understand why I feel a little stressed and occasionally overwhelmed.
But there's something about musicals that lift your spirits and inject you with energy. The music for Lia's Guide that I've heard so far (composed by the very talented Paul Herbert) is gorgeous. I've been humming it all week. I can't wait to share it with more people.
I haven't won the lottery yet. But this week I felt as though I had.