Posted on June 25, 2011 - by MG
A day does actually arrive when you find yourself typing the final words of your multi-volume young adult series. My final Joshua Files day didn’t have the intense drama of JKR finishing Harry Potter, naturally, because we can only imagine the pressure she must have been under.
And there’s also the sheer levels of immersion – all five Joshua adventures weigh in at around 375,000 words. That’s only one-and-a-half of the longer HP books!
There was however, one tiny similarity, which is that I too will admit that I had written the final page long before I finished the series. I think I wrote it back in 2009 when I was writing Zero Moment (Joshua Files 3). There’s a scene in that installment – let’s just call it the surreal bit – which put me in just the right, slightly sentimental mood. And I knew, quite suddenly, how I wanted to end The Joshua Files.
That kind of mood is difficult to bring about on demand. There are ways to get close, but if it should happen that one day you find yourself in the right emotional state to put down a particularly tricky or evocative scene, I find it’s best to go with it, drop everything and write it down.
Which is what I did that day in 2009. So when it came to the day of finishing Joshua, I had the most difficult part already drafted.
Here’s what I did that day. It was a perfect writing day – no author events that day, daughters were both at school, husband was out at meetings. I was guaranteed to have no interruptions. I had about one chapter left to write, then slide in the final scene and polish it up.
I made some toast with marmalade, brewed a cafetiere of coffee, dropped myself in the sofa in front of the 1980s movie ‘Risky Business’, the movie which launched a very young Tom Cruise to mega-stardom.
No idea why I picked that movie – it was on the Sky box and I was wondering if it was as good as I remembered. As soon as the music started I realised that I’d forgotten just how great that soundtrack was, with the electronic dance music of Tangerine Dream. As Joel’s life fell apart, with his hopes of a place at Princeton seeming to melt away under mounting disasters, Joel seemed to snap. An almost joyous, freeing sense of fatalism overtook Tom Cruise’s character. The Tangerine Dream track ‘Love On A Real Train’ kicked in, with a relentless, yet emotionally detached drive.
I saw immediately what I wanted to write and exactly how Josh might feel during the climactic moments of Joshua 5. Like Joel from Risky Business – all the best laid plans of his young life are suddenly under threat.So, I rushed upstairs, added the track to the growing Joshua Files playlist on we7, plugged the computer into surround-sound speakers and played the track.
Perfect – just the right sense of tension, urgency and drive, yet underneath it all I could sense that Josh, like Joel in Risky Business, would feel control slipping away from his hands and into the hands of some external force; destiny. And in that moment, like Joel, who grins and says ‘F**k it”, a part of Josh is resigning himself to fate.
I finished the scene, added the finale that I wrote in 2009 and gave both scenes a brief polish.
I was done by lunchtime. I went out into the street feeling a stone lighter. On the way to pick up my daughter I passed BBC Oxford’s Bill Heine and rolled down the car window to yell ‘I’ve finished The Joshua Files’. Bill gave me a huge thumbs-up.
And that was it. No trauma, no sadness. Quite a bit of satisfaction, if I’m honest.
Will there be more Joshua? Who knows. I leave Josh in a place that wouldn’t make it difficult to allow him to continue his adventures. Yet part of me feels that the kid should be allowed to live a normal life, play his guitar, write his songs and date a girl, without having to save the world and evade death every few months.
If you’re interested, here’s the Joshua Files playlist, featuring all songs that are mentioned, quoted or alluded to in the series, roughly in order.
The final four tracks are from Joshua 5. For now, that’s the only clue you get…