I remember meeting someone at university who bought a set of decks as soon as he received his first student loan installment. He would play music all night and hardly went to his lectures. Others knew him better than me and spent time with his group of friends, who effectively became a core of the Leeds Drum ‘n’ Bass scene. After having a drink with him once I thought, ‘I’m never going to forget this guy.’
And indeed I didn’t. Years later, when my first ideas for a novel about a DJ were coming together, the night-owl with his new decks sprang to mind. But my principal inspiration for the story itself was around a growing sentiment of uncertainty among many friends after graduation, otherwise known as ‘the quarter-life crisis’. The question I kept hearing, and even at one point asked myself was ‘what happens now?’
I got the impression this wasn’t just a feeling of being at a crossroads for a few people in their twenties. The more I researched it, I realised this was a significant social problem for a great deal of the UK’s younger generation.
And it still is, arguably made worse by young people being among the hardest hit in the tough times of recent years. In a survey by Gumtree (2011), 86% of the 1,100 young people they spoke to said they felt pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before reaching 30.
Creating Chris Ready allowed me to explore the idea of someone in his late twenties still feeling the quarter-life crisis. The kidnapping of his old friend MC Strait and the events that followed enabled me to sharpen Ready’s state of despair from where he could go on a significant emotional journey. On some level I did all of this to give any young person with an uncertain vision of their own future something to reflect on.
The issue of kidnapping was fairly rife in the international media at the time I was developing the idea for A Missing MC. It intrigued me greatly; not just what was happening in Colombia, but also the incarceration of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in the Middle East.
Back at university, I only went along to a couple of those notorious Drum ‘n’ Bass nights, but during my research I found reconnecting with that fantasy world to be a fiction writer’s dream. As Leeds was where I studied the location was never in doubt.
It all came together eventually, but by no means was this an overnight process.