Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved exploring in the attic for old boxes full of letters, cards and little mementos. I suppose this could become a thing of the past, thanks to the electronic age, but for me, nothing beats that musty old smell when you open up a long-forgotten shoe box (hopefully it doesn’t actually contain shoes!), stuffed with memories and little keepsakes you can’t bear to throw away. As a writer, these little treasure hunts are priceless.
My new novel is based in France and during the editing process, I thought I would have my protagonist deal with some French bureaucracy. I spent a year in France on an Erasmus exchange – I’ve always had a love of the language, the culture and the beautiful landscape – so I thought I’d dig up some of my old paperwork from that time. Needless to say, I got no work done today! I spent hours pouring over old photos, documents from my college, notes to friends (in fluent French – not sure I could do that now!) and contracts for my ‘stage’ or internship with Airbus. It brought me right back to that time, how I felt arriving there as a foreigner, the cultural differences, the challenges I had, missing my family. Opening that box of memories has given me lots of extra little ideas to ground my novel using those experiences.
I found some old love letters up there too (cringe!) which will no doubt make it into another novel in the future. Ah young love, it’s always so dramatic 🙂 Now all I need to do is find out how to break into other peoples’ attics and I’ll have inspiration for my writing for the next 30 years!