I've been asked why I chose to make the narrator of my first novel, Nameless Lake , a woman, but really, that's putting it the wrong way round. Something made me start writing in the voice of this character – Emma – and I only realised later that she would be the perfect narrator for the story I wanted to tell. The roots of my decision might lie decades in the past, with the whole family rushing to the sofa in response to the mournful brass blare of the Coronation Street theme tune. Here was a world dominated by women's voices, sharp and wild and larger-than-life yet somehow more real than anything else. I absorbed these voices long before I had an inkling that someone, somewhere had written them. But years later, through some miracle of luck and time travel, I stood in a bar in Manchester while the Street's creator Tony Warren shook my hand and told me he had enjoyed an episode I had written. I had somehow stepped into a parallel universe and was part of a team responsible for putting words in the characters' mouths, fifteen of us taking turns to pick up the endless story and bring it to life by getting inside the skins of these people whose faces were as familiar to us as our own. Those feverish years of deadlines and rewrites gave me a profound respect for soaps and a fresh understanding of their power. Whatever our gender as writers, we had to leap into every character's shoes and see the world from their eyes. Most of the time, capturing an individual's essence would outweigh any other difference between them and ourselves. “Does this sound like Deirdre?” This was the kind of question that woke me at night. “Is my Gail really Gail enough?” Soaps have become a force for positive social change precisely because of the way they require writers to look at life from different perspectives – to “be” other people. When it came to writing a novel, I turned to books for inspiration. The breakthrough for me […]
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