After The Note, some Distance

After The Note, some Distance

How do you write a new book when you think you only have one idea?

Hi. I’m Zoë. And I’m a one-trick pony. Or that’s what I spent too much time worrying about.
I’m the (sober) girl on the train who fell in love with a man from afar on her daily commute, pined for him for over a year, wished I had the courage to talk to him but didn’t, wrote him a note, got rejected, got together, got married, had kids, and then wrote The Note – a novel based on my story.

By the time I was sitting on the This Morning sofa, telling Holly and Phil about this bizarre-but-happy series of happenstances, I must have told the story of how I met my husband a thousand times. At dinner parties, at work, on holiday to strangers who asked how we’d met, in newspapers, on TV… And it was mostly received brilliantly: people were kind, their eyes lit up, people like a happy story – some said it sounded like a novel. Aria did an amazing job of getting that novel out into the world and up the chart. I was over the moon to have achieved my dream career of being an author, and was doing cartwheels when my book became a bestseller and hit number one.

 But when I sat down to concentrate on my second book – I was lucky to have a two-book deal – I was riddled with self-doubt.

“What if I’m a one-trick pony?”

“What if I don’t have any more stories in me?”

“Will I be able to write about anything other than Train Man?”

People say everyone has a book in them. What if The Note was my only book?

 Then it occurred to me. As much as I loved writing The Note, and as proud as I was of my story, getting away from it could in fact be a wonderful, liberating thing.

With that, I decided to alight the train and jump into another, totally different, world than the 8.21am to King’s Cross. Somewhere magical. Somewhere exotic. So I started thinking about other love stories than my own. How did my friends fall in love? Everyone has love stories, however happy or sad. I took inspiration from a friend who had fallen in love with a woman who lived on the other side of the world and the rollercoaster they rode to be together. But where would I set my story given that I wanted it to feel so different to The Note?

Mexico of course! I had been to university in Mexico and loved the country: its warmth, its smells, its people and their sense of humour… So I knew I should set some of my second book there. But who would my swarthy Mexican hero fall in love with? Where in the world is as different as you can get to Latin America? I thought about other places I love and landed on the Arctic Circle. I’d been to Norway a couple of times and was struck by the sharpness of the country: its beauty, its dramatic landscapes, its icy charm, its inspirational aurora.

So while I was busy promoting The Note, gushing about Train Man and love at first sight in radio interviews and blogs, I was also going on another adventure, to two very different places. After a few months, The Distance started to take shape: from the mountains of Mexico to the fjords of Norway to the flats of Suffolk, a new story was panning out. I realised I did have more than one novel in me. One that I enjoyed writing even more than I enjoyed writing The Note. And the process of writing The Distance has inspired another book. And perhaps another. Turns out ideas breed ideas, however silly one might seem at first. However crippled you might feel by self-limiting beliefs.

So here it is – the story of Hector Herrera. My handsome Mexican hero, and how he meets Cecilie Wiig in an online band fan forum. How they fall in love across a gulf, and ocean, two seas and a fjord, and whether they can ever be together to see if their love can work in real life.

I hope you like The Distance as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Zoë x