Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Birth of a Novel

So there I was, relaxing on the sundeck of a Nile cruise ship one afternoon last October.  We were moored at Aswan.  Because there are so many cruise ships travelling between Luxor and Aswan, they are usually moored four abreast.  They’re all built to the same basic design, and have doors on both sides of the lobby area, which are lined up exactly with the neighbouring ships.  If you’re on the outermost ship, you have to cross the lobbies of three other ships to get from the quayside to your own ship.  Not a problem, as they are only about three or four feet apart, and have short gangplanks with rope ‘handrails’ connecting them.

The sundecks are usually the same height but there is no gangplank connection at this upper level.  Lying on a sunbed, I idly wondered if it would be possible to vault across the short gap from one sundeck to another.  Not that I had any intention of trying it, you understand!

But somewhere in my mind, a story was being conceived.  Supposing the hero and heroine were on different cruise ships and the hero did that vaulting over the rails?

That evening, I put the question to one of the friends we had made on the cruise.  “Ross, would it be possible to vault from one sundeck to another?”  He walked across to the rail, studied the gap for a moment, then said, “Well, I wouldn’t try it now, but I could have done it easily when I was in my twenties or thirties.”

First piece of research completed - it was possible.  And I could see my hero doing his death-defying leap (slight exaggeration!) to be with the heroine.  He was tall, fit, with tawny hair which glinted gold in the sunshine, and stunning blue eyes.

So now what?  Are the hero and heroine guests on different cruise ships?  But the cruises only last 5 or 7 days, so what would happen when they returned home?  Somewhere in my mind I had the title ‘A Nile Romance’ (having abandoned ‘Romance on the Nile’ as being too reminiscent of a Poirot novel/movie!).  If they went back to England after the cruise, it would no longer be a Nile Romance.

Okay, they’re both going to be based in Egypt then.  Maybe she’s a tour guide on a cruise ship?  And could he be an archaeologist, working in the famous Valley of the Kings?

On a flight from Luxor to Cairo, I read an article in the flight magazine about an archaeologist who had explored a hidden tunnel leading from the burial chamber of one of the Pharaoh’s tombs in the Valley.   Hmm, something like that might work for my archaeologist hero.

With the setting and the two main characters in place, it was time to start thinking of the complications and conflicts that would prevent the course of love running smoothly.  I wrote the first two chapters at the hotel in Luxor where we spent a week after the end of our cruise.  Writing in longhand again in a notebook (which the very nice Egyptian in the hotel bookshop acquired for me) reminded me of my early (pre-computer) writing days.

I transferred my scribbles to the computer when I got home, wrote another couple of chapters then left the remainder of the story to simmer in my mind.  I picked it up again about six weeks ago and am now about three-quarters of the way through it.

Oh, and by the way, I never did manage to bring in the scene where the hero vaults the rails between the two cruise ships.  But I did call my hero Ross, after the cruise-ship friend who told me it could be done!

A-Z Challenge!!
As from next Friday, April 1st, I shall be embarking on the A-Z Blog Challenge - writing a blog each day (except for Sundays) each starting with a different letter the alphabet in turn.  Hope you'll drop in to cheer me on my way!


  1. You've described a classic example of how to create a story, Paula. Inspiration meets real life. This novel will be great!

  2. Here I thought I was reading a fiction story!! Now I learn it's a mix of fiction/non-fiction.


    This is a great story, Ana. All of Paula's stories are great.

    I'm so glad she decided to write again. The world would have been missing out on some great writing and wonderful romance stories.

    Best of luck to you, Paula, and keep the stories coming.

  3. Inspiration can stride in many forms, can't it?

    I still scribble long hand when an idea comes to me. Sometimes if I'm stuck at the computer, I'll take out pen and paper and the ideas seem to "unstick" a little bit when faced with this 'old fashioned' menthod!

  4. Thanks, Ana - I enjoyed the thought process that led to this story!

    And thanks, Toni - aww, I am blushing at your praise!

    Debra - I think it's the first time that an imaginary incident like vaulting over a ship's rail has actually triggered a story. Usually I start with the 'basic conflict' and work from there. The photo in the blog really is of two pages of the notebook I used in Egypt - if you enlarge it, you'll see it's full of crossings-out and insertions etc!

  5. Hi,

    Can't you have Ross vault over something: maybe a platform pay-booth on the underground!? Even I've leapt over one of those, when the damn thing stole my money and jammed!

    Can't wait to read this novel.


  6. Francine, I did manage to get in a short conversation about vaulting the rails:

    “You and Joanne exchange ships next week, she’s on the Nadia and you’re on the Amirah. It’s a good thing I found out that bit of information, otherwise I’d have had to practise vaulting over the rails between the sundecks.”

    “Easier to go down to the lobby where they’ve got the gangplanks between the ships.”

    Ross grinned. “Yeah, but not half as much fun. I even considered doing it last Monday when I first met you.”

    A vision of Ross vaulting the four-foot gap between the rails of the sundecks came into her mind and she gave a sudden laugh. “Last Monday I’d probably have been willing you to drop down between the ships.”

    He winced. “Ouch! That bad, was it?”

    She smirked. “The first impression was not good, no.”

  7. It's fun how the imaginative person's mind works. They can make a story out of anything!

    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

  8. What a cool story idea!

    I found your blog because I'm doing the A to Z blogging challenge too. I've read several entries and am enjoying the blog immensely. I'll pop in during the challenge and keep offering support - but I'm also reading you on my Google Reader now, so I'm looking forward to seeing where the challenge takes you!