A big welcome to Charlie Laidlaw. His book, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead was released by Accent Press on 30th June 2017.
About The Things We Learn When We’re Dead…
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy meets The Lovely Bones in this surrealist, sci-fi comedy.
When Lorna is run over, she wakes in a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions.
It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain.
She seems to be there by accident …Or does God have a higher purpose after all?
He joins me today to talk about the inspiration behind his new novel. Over to you, Charlie…
All books start with a beginning.
For the reader, that beginning is page one.
For the author, the beginning comes much earlier.
For me, that came on a train from Edinburgh to London. For no reason whatsoever, the idea for the book came into my head.
It was an apt place to have that beginning because, being a civilised place, Edinburgh is the only city in the world to have named its main railway station after a book.
Part of the inspiration was a quote from the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius Antoninus who wrote that “our life is what our thoughts make it.”
I’d always thought that life is what happens to you – all things good or bad: the people you meet, the things you do.
But, from a different perspective, everything about life is also about memory. We can’t do our jobs if we can’t remember how to do them; we can’t love people if we’ve forgotten who they are. It is our thoughts that shape us.
It’s the only train journey I’ve ever been on where I hoped for signal failure, or for spontaneous industrial action. I could have sat on that train for another five hours.
When I got home, I wrote the first chapter and the last chapter. The first chapter has changed out of all recognition, but the last chapter is still pretty much the same.
The story I’d come up was the story of Lorna Love, and the book follows her as she grows up. She’s feisty and funny, but also damaged and conflicted. More than anything, she’s someone fairly ordinary who you could meet on any street.
The story is about the small decisions that she makes, and of their unintended consequences. It’s also how, apparently killed in a road accident on her way back from a dinner party, she comes to look back at her life and rearrange her memories in a different pattern.
By the end of the book, when her memorises have come back to her, she can see herself in a new light. Her old memories, rearranged in a new way, make her a different person. (She’s not dead, by the way…and hence the book’s title).
It’s about being given a second chance and that is, perhaps, one of the most universal and recurring theme in literature.by