Deleted scene: a lot of Will’s backstory

Where Will might have ended up
Where Will might have ended up: rowing on the Cam

There are some very early lines in here. The whale gag dates from the very first draft of all. Some of it will feel vaguely familiar, as I ended up recycling bits into Lydia’s internal monologue, though I think some of the duplication may have been deliberate. At one point I had the idea of showing the same event from several different points of view. I think cutting it down to a single one was the right move in terms of structure, but it did mean losing a lot. I’m afraid, though, that this is all you’ll ever get about Why Olly And Will Hate Each Other So Much.


Will looked very much like any other stereotypical Stancester student – rah, sloane, Oxbridge reject, call them what you will. He had the floppy hair and the flippy-floppy flip-flops; he owned a wardrobe of rugby shirts, all of which he wore with the collar turned up.

Stancester, despite vigorous attempts by the Public Relations department to shake off the label, was generally acknowledged to be a university for Oxbridge rejects. It had always been fairly likely that a certain proportion of those who lacked the brains or motivation to reach the dreaming spires even leaping from the springboard of private education would end up settling for the rather less dizzy heights of Stancester’s prosaic and distinctly square blocks.

Will was among this number and was not ashamed to admit it. But the Lord looks at the heart, and Will’s beat, with well-meaning, exuberant devotion, to the glory of God the Father.

As Olly had informed Peter, it had not always been thus. Despite the best efforts of a cathedral school, the Dean’s sermons, and Religious Education, Will had never really grasped the point of it all. Oh, he enjoyed the singing, he would nod approvingly when people talked about the United Kingdom being culturally Christian, but it had never, he said, reached the deepest part of his being.

Nor had he ever really expected it to – particularly not three weeks into his first term at university, when the hangover that he had been trying to outdrink since Freshers’ Week had caught up with him, he was despairing of ever getting his head around Professor Bullen’s take on employment law, and he had just got onto the reserve hockey team. Some good, some bad, but none of it really the kind of experience that would obviously lead one to God.

God, however, works in mysterious ways, a fact that Will was to discover over and over again over the course of his university career.

Had he thought about it at all, Will would have compared his first term, to living inside a kaleidoscope, it had been such a colourful whirl of reality, illusion and violent agitation. His Freshers’ Week and the fortnight following it had been like one long school reunion. He had, he estimated, had alcohol in his bloodstream for eighty-five percent of his waking hours, and been roaring drunk almost every night. He had joined the cricket club, the rowing club, the sailing club, and several more that he only remembered when they sent him emails. Occasionally he had been to a lecture. He had, in fact, had a whale of a time.

It was the Tuesday of Week 3 when the whale seemed to tire of its parasitical passenger and vomited him out onto dry land. There was nothing special about Tuesdays; and this one was no different (so far as he could judge) from any other Tuesday. He had no more of a hangover than usual; his contract law lecture was no more boring than usual; his friends were, if anything, more scintillating and amusing than usual. Had you asked him how he felt about life, he would have blinked at you a little and replied that yes, on the whole he was pretty satisfied with it.

Will could not have told you what was so intriguing about the neon yellow poster that appeared, from a distance, to bear the single word Perfection? He could not have told you why he crossed the dining hall to look at it more closely, nor why, having deciphered the legend Want to know more? Look out for SUCF events throughout weeks 3 & 4!, he did not simply identify it as harmless, if silly, Christian propaganda and dismiss it as irrelevant. He walked on and ate his lunch, but the one-word question danced infuriatingly in his mind. Perfection?

He saw an identical poster that afternoon, blu-tacked crookedly to a door and, below it, a half-sheet screaming excitedly Ken Garnett HERE 4pm!!! Will consulted his watch. It was three minutes to four. He hesitated for less than a second before pushing open the swing door and – he could not have told you why – walking in.

After the event Will was, in his own mind at least, perfectly capable of explaining the mysterious attraction the Perfection? poster had for him. ‘It’s like, yeah, the Lord just, just, led me to that event; it’s like He was saying to me, “Will, you’ve just got to stop this sinful life you’re leading, you’ve just got to stop it and follow me.” He was saying to me, “Will, you’ve got to change”. And yeah, that was it, basically.’

Others put it down to boredom.

The effects of Will’s conversion upon his life were not immediately obvious to the casual observer. He continued to participate enthusiastically in the social life of the university’s sporting circle, both in the sport itself and in the attendant lager consumption, and was not noticeably more dedicated in his attitude to his academic work. He managed, however, to squeeze a few more hours into each week of his crowded calendar, and in them applied himself to Bible study, prayer meetings and good works. His circle of friends expanded to include Christian Fellowship members from every conceivable background. This was how he ended up frying eggs and bacon every Friday morning at Saint Martin’s Centre for the Homeless – a commitment he fulfilled religiously no matter how bad his hangover – and that was how he met Becky.

Will and Becky’s friendship was an unending mystery to acquaintances on both sides. Each one’s upbringing, politics and religious views were manifestly at odds with the other’s. Will said ‘sconn’; Becky said ‘scoane’. Becky said ‘laff’; Will said ‘lahf’. One would have assumed that all they had in common was the greasy frying pan at Saint Martin’s. It was impossible to deny, however, that there was more to the bond than the coincidence of the shared Friday mornings, and, against all the odds, Becky and Will got on like a house on fire. They teased each other mercilessly, mocked each other’s accents, brightened each other’s life with unceasing affectionate bickering and entertained the other volunteers and the homeless diners queuing up for their breakfast. Somewhere between the mocking and the insults the eggs and bacon got cooked.

In fact, it was Becky who had invited Will to fill the sixth space in Alma Road, back in the spring of first year. He had missed the boat in the scramble for housing; his Fellowship friends assumed that he would be sharing with people from the Sailing Club; the sailors took it for granted that he would have found a home with the Christians. Which, in the end, he did – but not those Christians, and anyway, Becky tended to get twitchy when people called her ‘Christian’. Olly, too – well. Will tried not to think too hard about Olly, but there it was: evidently a cathedral school hadn’t done much for either of them.

Leaving all that aside, even the ever-gregarious Will had secretly admitted that it was something of a relief when Becky turned to him across a sinkful of hot greasy water, and asked, ‘Who are you living with next year, anyway? Because I’m going in with my flatmate Colette and some of her friends, but I know they’re still one down…’

‘I hadn’t quite got as far as that,’ Will said, sheepishly. ‘I’ve got so much going on, you know? But yeah, if your house does have a spot going that would be great.’

She flashed a grin at him. ‘Brilliant! I’ll have a word with Colette, just to make sure they’ve not found anyone else, but it sounds like we’re good to go!’

And so they were. He wondered, sometimes, if he would have changed his mind had he known that Olly Sennick was one of this vague group of ‘Colette’s friends’ before he signed the contract – but never wondered too hard. After all, he concluded, every time, it was probably part of God’s plan. Perhaps he would be the one to lead Olly to God. Perhaps…

Immortality, of a sort


This afternoon I received a request from the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries for five copies of Speak Its Name – one each for the Bodleian Library, the Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and Trinity College Dublin. I have duly ordered these and asked for them to be sent straight to said agency.

I’ve already sent a copy to the British Library. I walk through the forecourt of the actual British Library building in London on my way to work every day, but sadly I couldn’t just drop a copy through the letterbox as I passed; I had to post it to Yorkshire.

It doesn’t feel quite as much of a milestone as getting the ISBNs did, but it does contribute to the general sense of having written a real book. The Bod et al are very welcome to their copies.

All suppliers reached

Messing around with words
Book… Nook… Kobo… Messing around with words at King’s Cross station

Speak Its Name is now available on Kobo and on the Nook. And that, so far as I know, is the lot. I’ve updated the page for the book with links to the purchase pages on all channels that I’m aware of.

If you have read the book and feel like leaving a review on any of those pages you feel would be appropriate, I would be delighted. The same goes for Goodreads, LibraryThing, BookCrossing or anything else of that ilk.

Deleted scene: Peter’s thoughts on Bristol VRs

This is not a Bristol VR. This is a photo of two interesting buses taken from the back of another interesting bus - but then I would say that...
This is not a Bristol VR. This is a photo of two interesting buses taken from the back of another interesting bus – but then I would say that…

I feel slightly guilty about Peter. In the blurb he’s described as a ‘bells-and-smells bus-spotter’, but because I lost a lot of his point of view in the great Lydia take-over, he hasn’t ended up with very much bus-spotting.

So here he is, with Georgia and Olly, preparing to graduate and leave Stancester for ever, and getting distracted by what’s coming round the corner…


‘I can’t believe,’ Georgia said, ‘that this is the last time we’re going to the Black Swan. Together, I mean. I’ll probably go to it quite a lot next year, but it won’t be with you guys.’

‘Yes, well, to all times there is a season and -‘ Peter broke off abruptly. ‘… Oh, for God’s sake, will you look at that?’

Georgia and Olly followed the direction of his glare, and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

‘Look at what?’ Georgia asked.

‘Over there – just coming round the corner of Dorchester Road.’

Olly ventured, ‘It’s a bus?’

‘Yup,’ Peter said.

Olly raised his sunglasses to see better. ‘And? It’s just a bus.’

‘My point entirely. It is a thoroughly boring bus. It is a Bristol VR; it was probably in service up until five years ago; and some idiot is taking it to a historic vehicle rally. What is the bloody point of that?’

‘I don’t wish to encourage you,’ Olly said, ‘but how on earth can you tell?’

‘Well, you can tell by the name on the side that it comes from the other side of the country. Also, it has what I think is its life history blu-tacked to the window. Also, there is something much more interesting following it through the traffic lights there.’

‘That’s another bus,’ Georgia told him.

‘Yes, but it’s about forty years older.’

Georgia and Olly looked at each other. ‘How,’ Georgia asked, ‘have we been harbouring a bus-spotter in our midst for three long years, and not known about it?’

Olly shrugged. ‘I believe it’s an occupational requirement for a vicar to have a morbid obsession with some form of public transport. He’s probably been mugging up on it so he can get through the bishop assessment thing. Did you never see The Titfield Thunderbolt?’

Georgia laughed. ‘Oh – yes. Yes, it all makes sense now. I bet there’s a test. But buses?’

‘Trains are more usual, I will grant you. When I was at school the Dean – the current Dean, not the one who left in disgrace – no, I’ll stop there, or we’ll never get off the topic. But I think buses are allowed.’

‘Actually,’ Peter said, with sorely wounded dignity, ‘my granddad was a bus conductor. On the Routemasters.’

‘Not the granddad who was a vicar?’ Georgia said, suspiciously.

‘No. The other one.’

‘Did the one who was a vicar like trains?’

‘I don’t know,’ Peter said. ‘Bit of a pity if he did, because I think his parish got Beechinged in the sixties.’

‘Oh, well,’ Georgia said, ‘Routemasters are cool, I guess.’

‘Thank you,’ Peter said graciously.

‘Can we get some lunch now?’ Olly asked.

‘I was waiting for you,’ Peter said. ‘And there doesn’t appear to be anything else interesting coming, so I’m perfectly happy with the idea.’

“What’s the best way for me to get it?”

Scales, geddit? ... oh, never mind
Scales, geddit? … oh, never mind

This is another question that I get asked a lot and, now that there is an option to get it on Kindle, it feels reasonable to answer it.

In terms of how much money each option brings in, I get the most from somebody buying the ebook from Lulu (£3.40), and the least from someone buying the paperback from Amazon (about 50p). Everything else hovers around the middle, with a range from £1.73 to £2.70.

However, it’s all more complicated than that. Sales on Amazon make me less money, but they move me up Amazon’s ranks. (Whether that makes any appreciable difference in the real world I don’t know, but I quite like watching the numbers.) I don’t much like buying stuff from Amazon myself, but I know that it’s very convenient.

I make more from an ebook than I do from a paperback – but the existence of the paperback means that it’s far more likely that someone will pick the book up, like the look of it and order one for themselves. If somebody found it in a charity shop I’d be delighted. I am not one of those authors who gets upset by the idea that more than one person might read the same copy of the same book.

My only answer, then, is going to be ‘whatever works best for you’. What I lose on the swings I make on the roundabouts, and anyway, writing isn’t my day job, and probably won’t ever be. I’m already making more per copy than a conventionally published author (the pay-off, of course, being that I’m selling fewer of them). Buy the book in whatever way is least hassle for you, read it in whatever fashion is easiest for you, and pass it on to whomsoever you like – unless the terms and conditions attached to your ebook reader exclude that possibility, of course.

On Amazon – twice over


Speak Its Name is now available on Kindle. My apologies for the delay. Some people, I know, have already given up and run the .epub through a converter. Lulu’s support team say that this delay is par for the course; given this, I may consider taking future books straight to Kindle, though it would be an extra layer of hassle that I don’t particularly want to deal with.

I’ve also set up an author page on Amazon. There isn’t – and won’t be – much there that you can’t find on this blog, but if you’re using your Amazon account to follow authors that’s where I am.