Nothing Else is what I call one of my lockdown books; lockdown literature might be a catchier phrase. I wrote three during the various lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, two novels and my memoir. What else was there for me except my writing? My theatre was shut, there were no physical book events, and we had all come inside. I got lost in my words, and naturally my experience of a pandemic infiltrated some of these stories, the isolation meaning I depended on music, reading, and writing.
Nothing Else was the third of the three books that I wrote during that time, and I started it in the deepest, darkest lockdown, the last one that was from January to March 2021, when we were all exhausted and fed up and done in. It followed my memoir Daffodils (out in audiobook 1st April) which the first lockdown interrupted and ended up becoming part of the narrative. It also followed a novel I can’t talk about yet (soon!) which explores a future world where all fiction is banned. I think you can see how that time affected me? These are some of the posts I shared when I wrote my dystopian book:
The themes in these three books were quite similar; the importance of the arts in our lives, something the lockdowns destroyed in many ways. Daffodils explored my own story and touched on the power of writing throughout my life – how it’s something I’ve turned to since I was small. In the next one (I can tell you more soon!) l created a world where we could no longer write or read novels. And in Nothing Else I looked at the extraordinary healing and transformative magic of music, and how it helps two young sisters cope when their childhood home is consumed with violence.
I realised that I’d never written a book about sisters. In fact, they rarely even feature in a small way. It occurred to me that this was quite odd. I grew up with three siblings, two of them sisters. Yet I seemed not to give this wonderful relationship to any of my characters. My siblings have been there for me in a huge way all my life. I told a tale of two brothers in The Lion Tamer Who Lost – not that it worked out that well! – so I wanted to write about the wonderful bond between sisters. Heather and Harriet in Nothing Else are very close. So, when circumstances separate them in childhood, it deeply affects the rest of their lives. The one thing they both remember vividly is a song they created together, one that drowned out the battleground that was their home. These are two (sadly, slightly ruined) pictures of us sisters (and our beloved grandma) when we lived with her. Claire and Grace learnt to play the piano, and were very good, but no one pushed them to continue.
Music is such a huge part of the new book that I created a Spotify playlist especially. It’s quite a mixture. As a pianist, Heather plays most of them at some point in the novel. The others are songs that she loves or is inspired by. Here’s a link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7zxfUegPjGhWag4tnznizw?si=03ad81cedc9f4288