The Inspiration Behind “The Accident”
“The Accident” tells the story of Veronica Pullman, who is trying to come to terms with the death of her daughter, but grief has isolated her from her husband and friends. After a chance encounter, Veronica strikes up an unlikely friendship with Scarlet, who shows her that there is a life to live after death. However, someone doesn’t like this new friendship and is out to torment Veronica – but who?
The idea for the novel started with an image in my head of a woman dancing in the rain wearing brightly coloured wellies. I wanted to tell her story: who is she? Where has she come from? Why is she here? Then I imagined a woman the polar opposite of her watching her through a window and wanted to explore a possible relationship between the two. Could two such different people be friends?
There were two main themes that interested me in particular. One concerned the friendships we make throughout our lives. How many of them are genuine and how many are borne of circumstance and obligation? Similarly, I would look around at the myriad of personalities on display on the school run, all of us thrown into an alien environment where we are often just muddling our way through, and I would wonder how many of these friendships were driven by circumstance. Veronica and Scarlet are seemingly the antithesis of each other in terms of character and yet they form a very close friendship over a short period of time. In contrast, Veronica and Felicity, who have known each other for years and are more similar in many respects, seem to have a friendship based on habit rather than true affection.
That lead me to the other theme: the choices we make and the consequences thereof. Veronica chose a life as a mother and wife, essentially putting her own ambitions aside for her family, while Scarlet chose the path of spontaneity and individuality. Do their personalities influence these choices or is it the other way around?
I’m often asked if my characters are based on real people I have met. I can safely say that no one character in the book is a mirror image of anyone I have met in real life. Rather, each character has been created from a number of people I have liked, disliked (in some cases), envied and lost touch with over the years, while others are people I have merely observed in passing. Veronica is certainly not an autobiographical reflection of myself, but there are certainly elements of her personality that I relate to and understand. One of the most enjoyable parts of being a writer is being able to take the darker side of human nature and explore it to the full, allowing myself to inhabit the mind of a villain and take the driving seat. I certainly wouldn’t think to behave in public the way some of my antagonists do, but it can be fun to imagine what it would be like.
I wanted these characters to be realistic and relatable, not necessarily likeable all the time, but people who fail before they succeed, who make bad decisions and stumble, the kind of people we encounter every day with the addition of a pantomime villain just to make it interesting. But I also want to keep you guessing until the very end: just who is the pantomime villain in this story? Perhaps it’s not who you expect. Perhaps we don’t really know the people around us after all.