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The concept of 'And Then That Happened' came from a Canadian friend in January 2005. We were sitting around telling funny stories about things that had happened to us. She told this long story about something awful happening to her that had come from nowhere. When she finished, it was obvious we weren’t meant to laugh, so there was this big silence that filled the room as everyone looked around and didn’t know what to say. She then said with a smile, ‘So, OK, and then that happened.’ She shrugged her shoulders, and everyone went back to normal with a nervous laugh.
From then on it’s always been my shorthand for one of those things life throws at you from nowhere – because isn’t life just like that? There can be good ATTH and bad ATTH, it’s about the randomness and the in the middle of doing all this stuff in my life, this thing came along and happened. Make sense?
My friend, H had been trying for a baby for years but she’d been told she couldn’t have one due to a medical condition. She moved to New Zealand with her boyfriend, split up from him and started seeing another man, and then got pregnant. Her opening phrase in her email was, ‘How’s this for an ATTH?’ It’s similar, but not the same as Nek Minnit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nek_minnit feel free to disappear into a Wikipedia black hole...
So I left that concept bubbling along for a few years.
After I wrote my first novel, Best Friends Perfect, I wanted to have someone who rather than being at the start of coming out as gay, had been in a gay relationship for a while. I was then interested in exploring this character if their relationship had withered on the vine somewhat.
I also wanted to explore how a character would deal with having mental health issues. I’ve had these, and it’s still one of those things people just don’t talk about. I wanted to show what it’s like to feel as if you can’t get out of bed, to cry at everything. I don’t want to spoil the story, but the supermarket dream in the story – that happened to me, on more than one occasion.
You know when you meet someone at exactly the time they need you in their life, and exactly the time you need them in yours? Well, that happened to me. N was in the middle of a breakup with his long term boyfriend for a whole variety of reasons, and in some small way, I think I helped him with that. I was also going through a lot of things at the time and together we negotiated our way through it. He knows I was inspired by meeting him to write this story. This friend isn’t Gabe in the story, but a lot of the things I learned from meeting this friend have been used in the story.
I also used to work in a hospital as a health care assistant, so the setting wasn’t too hard to come up with.
I dusted off the ATTH concept, put that with the end of a long term relationship, and some other stuff from N which I won’t say as it will spoil the story, added in the setting and wrote the first draft of And Then That Happened.
So, and then that happened.
I’d love to hear if any of you have any questions about the concept, or my inspiration for writing the story.
Until next time,
Liam Livings xx