Adapting ‘As Good As It Gets’ and hearing Charity’s unceasing voice in my head gave me the idea of writing ‘Diamond Roads’ as a novel so, over six months, I did. It was hugely exciting. Every day I would look forward to finding out what each character did. The evolution of the story came to me on the top deck of the 45 bus coming down Holborn towards Blackfriars, growing in my imagination like a plant. I think it was a fern.
The first draft was a monstrous 150,000 words, which seemed a bit heavy so I sought advice. While I was still living in Hastings, had packed in acting and left the telephone exchange I worked for five years in the civil service. At one point my desk was behind that of another struggling writer, Mark Edwards, who wrote novels. We have been friends ever since and he eventually moved to London as well. He suggested I cut the text back to a hundred thousand words and eventually it became a rather slim 73,000. I can be a brute with the delete key.
By the end of the year I was still fiddling around with the book and putting off doing anything else with it. My agent just dealt with TV so I had to find another one for the book. I sent it off to every agent I thought might be interested. None of them were. I got some nice responses but none of them from the decision-makers. I discovered that there is a lot of snobbery in the industry about science fiction for some reason and a lot of agents won’t touch it. This was also the time when publishers were getting stricter about accepting unsolicited material so representation by an agent was essential.
My agent left Seifert Dench and stopped agenting altogether so I was without representation again. I continued to send the book off myself. Writing it had unleashed something in me. The book was only a third of my original story so I wrote the next two stories as screenplays, partly because I wanted to find out exactly what happened but also to get it out of my head. However, as the last of my submissions thudded onto my doormat to echo the feeling in my by now somewhat battered heart I realised that ‘Diamond Roads’ was, for now, done.