I started writing The Snow Merchant in a town called Bath in the South-West of England. I lived in a little room with high ceilings and a sash window, and I sat up late eating hobnobs and tea and writing stories.
And one moonless night it snowed.
I sat there watching the flakes come down. They were thick, like sheep’s wool or God’s dandruff. I sat there watching the snow. Watching the snow.
And then an idea floated down in my mind.
Who knows where ideas come from. Looking back, lots of things connected then. I was on my own in a tiny little room that wasn’t home, while the wind howled outside. I was far away from my Mum and Dad. I was travelling from city to city carrying a big dark suitcase full of my stories. All these things had been drawing together in my head for a while I think, long before the snow came along.
I sipped my tea, nibbled another hob nob, and with the snow settling outside I started to write.
“On a winter’s night so cold and dark the fires froze in their hearth, snow came to Albion. It came packed up in the suitcase of a stranger. Lettie was the first to see him.”
That’s what I wrote.
And that is the beginning to The Snow Merchant.
It was two more years before I had an ending.
I didn’t know who Lettie was, you see. I didn’t know who the stranger was either, or why he had come. It was a mystery. It took me two years to solve it.
Two years is a long time. Some days, I was frustrated and bored. Nothing I seemed to write made sense. But I learned somethings writing The Snow Merchant.
It is okay to get things wrong.
I only ever wrote one beginning to The Snow Merchant. I must have written hundreds of middles and endings. But eventually, I found the beginning, middle and end I needed. I made them into a story. It’s here if you want to read it (although I’d prefer it if you went to an independent book shop, because they’re important.)
I wouldn’t have written The Snow Merchant if I hadn’t written all those mistakes first, though.
If you want to see an earlier version of the story, click here.