An Author’s Inspiration
By Phil Lowe
They do say that writers should write about what they know. For many years I travelled, on a daily basis, back and forth, hither and thither, on local public transport observing all aspects of human life unfolding, with its vivid dramas and silly humours. Inspiration, mainly comical, for The Total Joy of Travelling On Public Transport came dancing or silly walking toward me on most of my commutes and very often, did a nifty side step in-between. Eight years later and a lifetime's worth of commuting, a strong book idea started to form in my head and eventually in print.
The writing process went from rough notes scribbled on notepads and supermarket paper bags and integrated mini Dictaphone recordings to create fully explored stories. These inspirations often took a surreal turn in the finished tale. Creatively, I also found myself inspired to write in quite some detail about inanimate objects. For example, I explored the contents of an Argos catalogue and The Lady magazine, both found objects left on a vacated bus or tram seat. Conjecture about their history and connection with certain ages and types of people gave me opportunities as a writer of humour to be inventive – turning fact into fiction for fun.
Of course there are always plenty of annoying or odd 'characters' that use public transport that, creatively investigated, give rise to good story-telling. The vital key for me was to use their personalities but, in no way, exploit them by being racist or sexist. I find there is enough humour to mine in the day-after-day transactions of conversation and commuter frustrations to tell plenty of fascinating tales. Imagination is a great tool in bringing people to life on the page. In the book there are over a hundred such examples plus sprinklings of overheard comments.
The Total Joy of Travelling On Public Transport is mostly centred on Nottinghamshire with its terrific tram and bus systems. However to enjoy the stories one doesn't need to come from, or know Nottingham and its people. The tales are universal and in the book, I even discover what Londoners think of bus and tube travel and relay what it felt like, pour moi, travelling on a Bordeaux tram system finding myself with an extremely desperate need to visit a toilet! Write about what you know indeed!
So, as the book blurb says:
'Ah, the total joy of travelling on public transport. Do you love travelling with the delightfully varied public and their dubious electronic gadgets and often odious habits? Do you mind when the person behind you has a full blown argument on their mobile phone with the speaker positioned at extra loud, just so you are sure to get both argumentative sides of the mutual yelling? Is it OK for someone to apply their nail polish on a hot bus, thereby nearly choking the other passengers to death with the toxic fumes? Would special mobile confessionals built into modes of public transport ease the congestion of verbal diarrhoea from total strangers? Do you balk at getting up close and personal with the great unwashed? Are you the kind of person that finds the joys of travelling on public transport highly amusing or, would you rather just throw yourself under a bus?
Grab your copy of
The Total Joy of Travelling on Public Transport
Many thousands of people in Great Britain travel to work and back on public transport. We commuters use the buses, trains and trams, on average, around five days of the week. We endure the pleasure of other passengers talking loudly on their mobiles. Season after season, we delight in strangers coughing their germ clustered spittle all over us, almost to the point where we wonder if it is actually raining inside the vehicle. Some other passengers sit crunching sweets like a starving deaf horse and some salivate wildly as they delve into endless bags of stinky squid and blue cheese flavoured crisps. And, quite often – well, let’s just say it - it gets much worse! I know. I have been there. I mislaid the tee shirt and bought an annual travel pass.'
Connect with Phil: Website • Twitter.