I'm not superstitious. I walk under ladders, I stroke black cats when they cross my path. No, I'm not superstitious except when it comes to my writing. I carry amulets, I get very upset if they disappear. I don't tempt fate with loose talk about what I'm doing and I believe in serendipity. I have this in common with my friend, Linda Newbery. Her book, Lob, is on the Guardian children's fiction prize longlist, and richly deserves its place. She explains in an interview: Following the Walking Man, guardian.co.uk 9th August, 2010, how this book was inspired by seeing a man walking the roads between her home in Northampton and Oxford where she was working. He appeared at different points in the book's life: on the day she proposed the idea to her editor, the day after she handed in her typescript, her last sighting of him was at a bus stop in London. She called him Lob. I remember talking to her about this before the book was published and telling her that I used to see the same man, or one of his tribe, walking the main road between Birmingham and Coventry. I said I'd look out for him. Linda keeps a look out, too. She carries a signed copy in the glove compartment of her car, ready to give to him when she sees him again.
I have to report a sighting. The day after I read her interview I saw him walking up Putney High Street, swathed about with bags of different sorts, pushing a trolley, making his way between the shoppers and the buggies. Putney High Street was the old road to Portsmouth and that was the way he was heading, out of the bustle of the town, up onto the ancient heath. I hope it's a good sign for Linda.
I have my own examples, which is why I could identify so closely with Linda and her walking man. My latest novel, The Fool's Girl, was inspired by Shakespeare's play, Twelfth Night, and has Feste as a character, the Fool of the title, The first time I had to talk about the book in public, in Cambridge on a warm spring day, I saw this street performer on the way to the venue. My own serendipity. I can't pass a street performer now without giving him or her some money. Feste would never forgive me.
I'm hoping that serendipity is still working for me. On the day I was thinking about writing this blog, I went to the library and on the notice board there, I saw a flyer for something that was a clear message about the book that I plan to write next. I'm not going to say what it is, because that would be tempting fate.