According to the diary I kept as a teenager, I started writing The Roman and the Runaway in 1985. This was when I was sixteen years old and just beginning the first year of the sixth form of a large Oxfordshire comprehensive school, where I was studying A level Biology, English Literature and History and doing an O level in Russian on the side.

January 1st 1986…I’m reading and enjoying Little Dorrit and listening to Vice Versa (F. Anstey) on the radio. On November 17th I started writing a book of my own & wrote quite a lot – but I’ve become annoyed with it recently – & unable to find the willpower to arrange it properly.

This could explain why it took me until 2009 to get it finished…

Until I picked up these diaries again recently, I had forgotten that I had ever written about the book in those very early days of writing it. It is quite funny to look back and see that I had recorded the date of beginning it. The diary had no entries for November and December 1986 – I was obviously too busy writing the story! I wrote more diligently in my diary in the rest of 1986 and 1987 and there are odd mentions of my book-writing throughout those years:

Friday 10th January…Mum got a typewriter – am learning to type.

Sunday 11th January…Taught myself more typing – very frustrating at times.

Sunday 19th January Went swimming & played squash at the College. In p.m. played cards with Mum, wrote a bit more of masterpiece & watched The Taking of Pelham 123.

Sunday 26th January…Revolutionised theme of my novel…

Saturday 1st February…Wrote bit more of blockbuster.

Sunday 2nd February Wrote a lot more of bestseller – spent most of day on this…

Monday 3rd February Cold again. Got 8/8 in Russian test on time. Got stuck on book – creative flow hit a dam. Sore throat.

Monday 3rd March…Have written new beginning to book. Quite good, I think…

Tuesday 4th March…Wrote first part of book yet again.

Thursday 6th March Copied & re-wrote more of book.

Tuesday 1st April Spent most of day reading Little Dorrit and writing – re-writing, the first chapter of my story.

Monday 21st April …I’d love to be a writer.

Sunday 1st June …Thought out more of my story on journey home.

Monday 2nd June …Having my story in my mind is like having a big sum of money for a rainy day – or a warm bed to climb into – a comfortable thing to think about. It makes me happy just thinking about thinking about it! I can’t work on it until after the exams – but I’m always aware of it.

Wednesday 4th June …Thought some more about story.

Monday 23rd June …Started my book – for the fourth time. One day I’ll be able to write it all. The idea won’t go away though, so there must be something in it.

Tuesday 24th June …Told Emma the story behind my novel – she was quite interested. Made me think about how on earth I’m going to end it.

Monday 30th June Wrote a lot more of masterpiece…

Tuesday 1st July …Emma liked my book-so-far. Mum – not so much.

Monday 25th August June …Read some Biology. Then wrote book – first term – settling in.

Sunday 22nd September …Made a few revisions to my story.

Friday 3rd October …The three Rachels in Biology were thrilled to hear about my story. Nice to be appreciated. I’d love to be an author.

Friday 28th November …I read Power of Three and Charmed Life – children’s stories by an author I really admire – Diana Wynne Jones. I’d like to write books as enthralling as hers.

Easter Sunday 19th April, 1987 …I’d like to go down to the South Downs this year…for my much-neglected and sorely-missed story. The only time I get to think about it is at night, before I fall asleep!

I love the references to masterpiece, blockbuster and bestseller (I’m fairly sure they were meant to be ironic!). I do remember that I used to write on the bus on the way to school. I don’t have any of these early versions of the book – I started from scratch on numerous occasions over the years whenever I had time to write (which wasn’t very often). The premise was always there, lurking at the back of my mind and demanding to be written. The current incarnation of the novel was started (again) at Christmas 2007. All that remains of those earliest versions is a single, (badly) type-written scrap, found in the pages of my diary:

Fragment of an early version of

Back then, Ned Kelly was ‘Mr Pengelly’ – but Luke was already Luke. I’m pleased to say that this scene did make it through to the final, 2007, version, although many of the details have changed!