Author John Sodeau on writing his new book FIELD LANE

Author John Sodeau on writing his new book FIELD LANE

Posted by John Sodeau on 26th Feb 2024

My journey along Field Lane - John Sodeau 

Cork based author John Sodeau's shares his account of the process and background to his new book - Field Lane. 

Before I retired from front line science research a few years back, I decided that I’d like to write a fiction novel. Probably a thriller. Maybe a whodunnit. But I was certain I would wait until I got what I thought would be a good original idea which I could turn into words that people wanted to read. An idea finally came to me just over a year ago when I was confined to a hospital bed for a week with nothing to do or read or watch: Field Lane is the result. 

The Genre - 

But the question was, what type of book would emerge from an idea mixing real historical figures both with well-known characters from a book by Dickens and my imagination? Initially I thought it would end up as a YA but the final manuscript told me the book had been driven in another unexpected direction. It is much darker and critical of our society than I had expected or set out to write. ‘What genre is my novel?’ was a question I asked myself every day. Maybe a mystery based in real and imagined history with a social and a science underpinning. A metaphysical mash-up? Even a whodunnit or whydunit or howdunnit came to me as possible descriptions. But I soon stopped worrying when I thought: Would Charles Dickens or Mark Twain have cared less as to what genre their novels belonged to or what shelves in a bookshop their books would be allocated to? A resounding no, I thought. 

The Structure - 

I realise my chosen structure for the story I wanted to tell is a bit off-the-wall. No chapters just six parts basically split half and half between London and New Orleans. Then the many character headings written as POV. Some short and some long sections with changing names. Confusing to some readers perhaps but it was a definite choice by me to make the telling unique to me and my style. Basically, I thought of it as a jigsaw puzzle made up of numerous pieces (POV characters) who come together to make a coherent, satisfying picture by the end of the book. 

The Story -

I was initially driven by the following concept. I had read many books where historical figures and events interacted to become part of an original story with various newly imagined individuals. Even some when the back stories of book characters were told. But none where the characters of published books not only interacted with contemporary reality but also with a whole new set of family and friends created specifically for the story. I have also never read a novel where two classics written by two different authors collided. I began putting that concept into words by researching the era in which the novel was set and the situations that had popped up in the real world then. To my surprise many of the stories I came across were much wilder than any fiction I would have dreamt of creating. So my plot uses and reflects many of those real goings on. With my dialogue of course. Choosing Oliver Twist and Huckleberry Finn as being central to the plot was easy because so many people are familiar with the characters and set-ups already.. But the introduction of characters from other Dickens’ books is there because it amused me to create a whole new world. As did leaving a bird crumb trail to a possible sequel. 

Various themes popped out of the writing process. I had no initial intention of writing about slavery, famine, drugs, racial prejudice, snobbery and the black/white polarised stands that are present in all societies. I just wanted to tell a historical/scientific story which made readers want to turn the page. An edutainment if you like. 

The Audience - Some of the language I use reflects the times I describe. Some might object to that nowadays but they are not part of the audience it is my intention to entertain. I have no idea if the end product I call Field Lane will attract YA’s. Or even OAP’s for that matter? 

Just as long as some people get some enjoyment from and escape to the world I have created. 

John Sodeau, February 2024

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You can purchase signed copies of John's book from us at the link below -