Chilling Out with Kim

I’m currently sitting opposite the Pacific Ocean in one of the most pleasant and laid-back places in the world — Santa Barbara’s beachfront. However, I’m not doing a touristy travelogue and my enjoyment of the relaxed atmosphere is interspersed with virtual panic-attacks about the amount of money it costs to be here.

But I’m here because this place (as very attentive readers of this blog may have realised)  is somewhere that’s ingrained in my psyche as I spent an academic year here as part of my undergraduate degree course — although it wasn’t here in chic downtown Santa Barbara (see photo below — taken from my hotel balcony) but the more rough-and-ready student ghetto of Isla Vista.

Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara
Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara

Isla Vista is a community of at least 10,000 students (possibly many more) and very few other people. I ended up living almost in the middle of it — in an apartment that bordered on its central business district (if that’s what various student bookshops, liquor stores, fast food businesses and so on can be called).

While this sounds quite anarchic and hedonistic, I probably reacted against it all to a large extent when I arrived — for one thing I was so young that it was illegal for me to buy alcohol, which was something very constricting for someone on the third year of a British university course.

I’m quite astounded now at how I managed to cope — aged 20 — being deposited on the other side of the globe in the days before the internet and e-mail. This was when phone calls home were so expensive you made them once a month and when national news came via the reading room of the university library’s periodical collection rather than a few clicks on a computer.

Perhaps, if anything, this experience of being transplanted between cultures has given me an appreciation of what British culture looks like from the outside — which is perhaps a theme of the novel.

Moreover, while it sits at odds with my northern English upbringing and redbrick (British) university roots, there’s always going to be something in me of the chilled-out Californian. I spent the best part of a year with the TV stations I watched most being the local KEYT Santa Barbara ABC franchise but also the local Los Angeles stations — while the names of suburbs in LA might seem a little random to many with a superficial knowledge of the area, I’ve gained mine from effectively being a local for a year.

Not that this has much to do at all with the profoundly English themes in my novel but hopefully the work I did here in Santa Barbara (especially the screenwriting courses) will seep subconsciously into the novel — or perhaps more overtly as I’m wondering about converting a character into a Californian.

Santa Barbara from Stearn's Wharf at Nightfall
Santa Barbara from Stearn's Wharf at Nightfall

And Santa Barbara (or Montecito — the other end of town to the university) is home to large numbers of movie, and other, stars. In a very tenuous Kim connection apparently the second biggest celebrity wedding of the year took place a mile or so up the road — Kim Kardashian who’s apparently very famous for being famous married a basketball player. This is all the sort of stuff that Emma disdains interest in but by which she’s actually fascinated.

So, appropriately, it’s on to Hollywood and Beverly Hills today (where, ridiculously, the internet costs extra in the hotel so I may be quiet a while).

And I’ve been very slow in picking this up but perhaps the biggest subconscious influence of all is how my novel’s title is an almost literal translation of the biggest city in California — Los Angeles — the Angels.

7 Replies to “Chilling Out with Kim”

  1. Sounds like your having lots of deja vu momemnts, Mike ! H and I spent one very homophobic night in a Santa Barbara boarding house 20 years ago – so I can’t say I have as fond memories of the place as you do.

    How is the novel all comming along – any idea when you’ll be ready to show? I am on the verge of geting mine out to my four selected guniea pig readers…oh, err!
    Bren Gosling

  2. Bren, I’m surprised about your bad experience in Santa Barbara, even 20 years ago. It’s always struck me as a fairly liberal place — although it is the place where the likes of Ronald Reagan liked to retire to.

    I’m now in Arizona, which probably has less progressive attitudes — a solid Republican south-western state. 46C/115F at the moment too.

    My novel has had about 100 words added to it over the course of this holiday. I may try a few more today. I am getting lots of interesting ideas for it though. I hope to browse in Barnes and Noble later today to get a few ideas about the American market. If your novel has potential to appeal to Americans then maybe all the better for its being taken on. The novel doesn’t have to be about Americans or have American characters — I found a British novel about someone living in the Tower of London in the hotel giftshop here.

    I’m very encouraged that Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen are the biggest broadcast TV shows here, apart from sport — the food angle is almost universal.

  3. Hi Mike
    Hot! Well in London it’s been raining non stop for four days pretty much and I’m still not over this cold but it has given me total focus on my completed manuscript which has now gone out to four guniea pig readers(no one from the course – I thought it best to give it to people who dont know anything about the story, so they will be seeing it for the first time and this will tell me if it works ias one piece or ifI am barking up the wrong tree – hopefully I am not.)

    Don’t know if you can help Mike. I am desperately trying to find out the EXACT airing time of a uk cult sci fi series called Jeapardy ON FRIDAY 17TH MAY 2002. Ive tried google but I cant get the channel this profg was shown on or the airing time. It’s a plot device ( yes, really) for my novel(see my recent pblog post).
    Bren Gosling

  4. Hi Mike
    Howis everything going with the novel. HARD slog isn’t it! By the way I found Radio TimesHQ in London REALLY helpful regarding old TV programming schedules. BFI not so.
    Bren Gosling

  5. Bren, Thanks for the comment. You’ve reminded me of my criminal neglect about updating the blog.

    In fact I’ve been nearly about to post something over the past few weeks and I’ve uploaded lots of good photos of Las Vegas and Arizona as these places, which I visited on holiday, are promising to make an appearance in the blog.

    I’d agree completely about the novel being a hard slog. I’ve been doing an awful lot of ‘writing in my head’ and I’m currently working on about 5 different chapters at once — and when they’re done there won’t be that much else to go before I can complete the whole thing.

    I’ve developed a backstory for Kim which explains more why she wants to get out of London. And I’ve also thought of a twist in the plot for Emma. However, some of these ideas are taking me into territory which asks questions about the link between art and pornography and the similarities between the promotion of art and prostitution. All fascinating and thought-provoking stuff but I wonder whether this will complicate the genre question for me.

    When do you think yours will be ready to be sent out?


  6. PS. The reason I’ve been failing to update the blog is down to work, time and fatigue. I’ve been travelling almost every day into central London — and this is usually a 4 hour commute. Ideally I’d like to write on the train but I’m either half asleep or the train is so cramped that it’s not possible.

  7. You have my sympathies Mike..that must be difficult. Well…I had my four trusted readers feed back and it was very encouraging on the whole but I do need to redraft again and incorporate a few changes. I interviewed a PhD student at London University SEES on Sunday – it was SO helpful in SO many ways…and I need to now digest everything, and my last tutorial with Emma – before starting again. If I had 3 clear weeks I would probably finish it but I haven’t so I reckon- sometime in November it will be ready. I did put my first two chapters into a competiton today. This evenning went to Kiel for tango classes with my teacher here in Hamburg.
    Bren Gosling

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