By Kate Bulpitt
Purple People is a jolly dystopia, telling the story of an outlandish scheme to curtail crime and anti-social behaviour - by dyeing offenders purple - and the news-loving lass who investigates it
Thursday, 23 August 2018
Dystopias & delays
[photo copyright of @tim_longhurst, via Twitter... A recreated 1980s WH Smiths from a Black Mirror set]
Hello pals of Purple People,
How are you? Hope everyone’s enjoying a dandy summer. Here all’s been a smidge quiet on the Purple front, I know, and there have been a couple of reasons for that...
Firstly, I’ve been tinkering with the lay of this dystopian lavender land. As other folk have remarked during the last year or two, with the barmy state of the real (or these days, surreal) world, any fictional satire hazards being doomed to pale in comparison. I’ve not fretted about that too much - if anything, I hope a jolly dystopia might feel increasingly welcome, clutching a couple of bottles of rhubarb fizz and some Twiglets, ready to entertain you - but, like many, what I have been struck by (donk!) is just how pertinent some stories feel, how strongly they resonate, in these strange times. In particular, the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale naturally felt all the more terrifying for just how believable it was (one day, while ambling about, I spotted a black van and immediately assumed it to be The Eyes, despite knowing that Gilead isn’t real - and even if it were, I was gambolling through the family-friendly, salt-aired streets of Hove, where the most likely beady-eyed danger comes from those winged bruisers, the seagulls).
When I first started Purple People, it was set amidst life as we know it, with this one off-kilter thing: the purpling. But despite its many obvious marvels, I’m a lass who’s unsure of much in modern life (never mind tourist trips to the moon, I’ll be first in the Tardis when time travel’s been figured out - and, amongst other stops, you’ll probably find me outside WH Smiths in 1985), and I felt uneasy with the story’s environment being so current (if you spot me in too-close proximity to current or modern, just thwack me with an EpiPen). Hence the reimagining to a wonkier world, where a particular fork in time has led to a parallel universe both more and less advanced than ours, with a pronounced cigarette smoke ‘n’ Roxy Music filled retro-ness, which felt fun - and got the thumbs up from early readers. But this year, as I attempted to finish the current edit, I felt an itchiness again about the book’s setting. In the wake of watching Offred’s affecting and effective, rumblingly prescient Tale, I was wondering: does a story pack a much, well, punchier punch if it feels truly plausible? Will too much Def Leppard* dilute the dystopia? (or, um, Hysteria, ho ho).
A conversation with a wise friend has, I think, solved this (hurrah, and thanks, Chris!), and I now have a purple place where much of the retro-ness remains, if for more current/futuristic reasons. A happy balance, I hope, which fits - or with the wind behind it, strengthens - the book’s themes, particularly in relation to our lives now (maybe in an imminent post I’ll share snippets from all three configurations of the Purple world). Fingers crossed! I’m excited to see how it pans out.
Another thing I’m giddy about is having been assigned an editor. And lawks! what good fortune the editing gods (wrapped in robes adorned with a cute typewriter print, and eating Alphabetti Spaghetti, I like to think)** have bestowed on me. For this excellent chap with a red pen (he probably has a red pen), has already been incredibly kind, wise and supportive, starting the process with a heartening and exemplary pep talk - and this even before being sucked, welly-deep, into the Big Edit trenches. Terrifying - and also terrifically exciting. I can’t wait to see how brilliantly he helps shape the final shebang. What a treat*** to go through this process (thank you, Unbound, and thank you, Craig).
On that note, there was, as I mentioned, a second reason for the delay in Purple People shimmying towards the printing presses. Besides ironing out the speculative kinks, following some unexpected, rollercoaster-esque turns of events (nothing life-threatening, I might add), I’ve found myself peskily but unavoidably behind with a number of important things, one of those being the book’s edit. But it is very much afoot, and when it’s done (not too far off now), and been sprinkled liberally with Wise Editor Dust, I enthusiastically hope it will have been worth the wait.
And finally... it’s two years since my Unbound adventure began, having met cheery visionary John Mitchinson at the Port Eliot Festival (spookily, a jamboree I’d discovered thanks to an Unbound novel). This summer I returned to the Festival - and funnily enough, bumped into John quite literally as soon as I stepped off the train. Each day he and co-host Andy Miller were recording an episode of their witty and wonderful Backlisted podcast. This included a trio of delights, but most notably, a discussion of George Orwell’s The Lion & the Unicorn with Suzi Feay and Billy Bragg. How wondrous it was is almost indescribable - it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me blub over Billy Bragg afterwards (and tell him I thought he should be in charge of all things, along with Caroline Lucas and Paddington Bear) - and you really should listen to it. To the end. For a remarkable thing awaits you, which I doubt will leave a dry eye in the house. Readers, it’s rousing. A rouser and a wowser (sorry... I am just about to get my coat).
On that note, I’ll bob along...
Thank you again for your support - and your patience (eek)!
* Don’t fret, pets, there’s not so much Def Leppard, really.
** By this I mean the higher powers at Unbound (who, incidentally, I think tend to wear usual civilian clothes and not overdose on Heinz).
*** Looking up alternatives to treat led me to wayzgoose... what a word!