Today, apart from changing the sheets and taking out the garbage, I have a job that gives me some satisfaction: playing God. Which, of Dr Dan’s previous cast of thousands, will survive to Book 5? Some people like designing gardens or rearranging furniture. My thing is playing the Grim Reaper, but with a red pen instead of a scythe.
In any series there must be arrivals and departures, and not always expected ones. I have already received pleas for mercy on behalf of Trevor Buxton, Lilian Blacksmith and Emlyn Gadd. I make no comment, I make no promises. Just don’t run away with the idea that I find killing people easy. I live with these characters for the year it takes me to write their stories and when they go, as go some of them must, I feel the loss.
A few readers have questioned my decision to retire next year. They think I’m bluffing and they may be right. Since returning to work I feel less tired, not more so. Of course, there’s work and there’s work. Journalism, which by definition must be produced yesterday if not sooner, sends me into an adrenalin-fuelled tizz. My heart races, my fingers fly over the keyboard and after the piece is done and delivered I can’t sleep. A novel-writing marathon is quite different, an investment of time and energy that often feels like a wrong turn. Still, it beats any other job I ever had, and as it’s too late for me to become a firefighter or a neuro-surgeon or any other heroic asset to society, on I go. The red pen is poised.