It would be lovely to say the premise for The Second Life of Amy Archer came in a flash of inspiration too potent to be ignored. And I would love to be able to claim that I knew it was a winning idea from the outset.
But I’d be lying on both counts if I did.
Truth is, the novel’s roots can be traced back to a police reconstruction I’d seen on Crimewatch or the local news, some twenty odd years ago. Unusually, they didn’t just show the ‘missing girl’ in the place where she’d last been seen – they went behind the scenes too - something I’d never seen before.
Seeing the girl being given the clothes she had to wear, having her hair and make up done and then being given directions on where to stand and what to do, blurred the lines between fact and fiction.
It got me thinking about memory and perception. About how the actress might feel tracing the steps of someone who looked just like her, who’d been in that exact spot, in those exact clothes, and never been seen again.
I wondered if it might affect her in later life. If so, how? And I wondered how it might affect the parents of the missing girl. The heartbreak of seeing ‘their daughter’ again. The tease of it. The hope.
This is where a blinding flash of inspiration was meant to strike and send me scurrying to my keyboard. Instead, I jotted a few words in a notebook: ‘Police reconstruction. Fall out for lookalike/parents?’.
And I put the notebook in a drawer – where it sat for the best part of twenty years.
When I did eventually start to take my writing ambitions more seriously, I was lucky enough to bag myself a great agent who had doubts about the commercial promise of the book I was writing at the time.
‘Have you got anything else?’ he said.
The police reconstruction idea popped into my head immediately. It was still just a thought – I could give no details on plot, structure, characters or outcome.
‘That’s the one,’ he said. ‘Play around with that.’
So I did – and the rather bald idea I’d had two decades before slowly began to develop.
Once I’d started the book, its themes quickly became apparent: loss and hope, memory and illusion, doubt and belief. And second chances of course.
After burying the original idea for twenty years, I knew all about second chances.
Back to top