Going back to Emily’s point about how themes emerge the more that one writes, I’ve realised I’ve unwittingly used some fascinating influences. I’ve just been writing, very slowly, a scene where Kim paints in her tube carriage studio and decides whether she likes James or not. Watching artists at work is not something I’ve properly researched yet but I found myself writing about gestures like her putting a brush to her mouth and nodding her head from side-to-side. I’ve realised where my mind dredged this up from — a rather famous Cadbury’s advert from the 1970s which can now be seen again on You Tube.
I’ve also given Kim a liking of religious choral music, partly because I have some of it on the computer and it’s randomly played as I’ve been writing. I did, however, buy the Classic FM CD ‘Music for the Soul’ last week which has Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis’ (apparently the third best loved piece of classical music in the country). I’ve seen this performed twice now — once at the Proms for the fiftieth anniversary of RVW’s death (in 2008) — and this really is music for the soul. Heard live, the bass strings resonate through your body. What’s special about the CD is that before the Fantasia is the original theme by Tallis which RVW used as the basis for his work — called ‘Why Fum’th In Fight?‘. It’s quite extraordinary to hear the theme sung and then elaborated by the string orchestra.
I may have Kim be inspired by the Tallis Fantasia later in the novel. I wanted to write it in the current scene but it’s getting quite long and I need to get the characters moving. Instead she plays John Tavener’s ‘Song for Athene’ (the 20th century Tavener, not Tallis’s contemporary). Of course this is most famous from being the music to which the Princess of Wales’ coffin was carried out of Westminster Abbey and was accompanied by the most striking images of the black and white tiling on the abbey floor. There’s also another connection between Tavener, Tallis, Vaughan Williams and Westminster Abbey.Â The part of Westminster Abbey where the choir sang ‘Song for Athene’Â is where Thomas Tallis is buried and Vaughan Williams’ ashes are interred, which I’d not known until I did a bit of research.
I realised that I’m spontaneously generating quite a lot of references to cathedrals and other religious themes. St Paul’s is going to play a part in the story and so will the village church and churchyard (think about Emma). But it’s probably no co-incidence that this is happening with a novel that’s called The Angel — whether the title is a symptom or a cause of this is an interesting question but it all seems to tie in quite uncannily.
I also read on the Guardian’s Book Blog that angels as a general literary theme are meant to be the Next Big Thing, replacing the current vogue for vampires. I’m not sure this is a great thing for my title, seeing as my angels are on pub signs and are symbolic — not the scary sort made notorious by the likes of the famous Stephen Moffat Doctor Who episode — ‘Blink’. I do like the title, though. I’ve even worked it into the dialogue — from recently written chapter two:
â€˜Yes, sorry about your job too,â€™ Kim said.
â€˜Iâ€™ve got the cash for you, though.â€™
â€˜Youâ€™re an angel,â€™ she said. â€˜Come up and take a look around.â€™