All These Minds in Tandem by David Sanger (Quercus, April 2016)
Introduced by David Sanger
Location is important to me when I write. Which is odd considering I wasn’t certain where my recently published novel, All Their Minds in Tandem, would take place until about a third of it was written. Odd too is that I’ve never been to West Virginia where it’s set. Whenever a letter arrives for me, I worry it’s finally happened – the angry mail from West Virginians saying how I’ve got their geography back to front.
The first thing I wrote for the book was a chapter where a young girl looked out over a cliff, with her uncle by her side. I could picture the surroundings – the old abandoned train, the overhanging trees like a theatre’s curtains drawn back for an encore. Even though I had written it loosely and unmoored from any strict setting, it eventually felt like it gained a home in West Virginia. I guess it’s like stumbling across an old box of photographs in the attic and shuffling them before your eyes, trying to work out where it is they were taken. The location was there – I just had to find it.
Location too is important to me outside of the plot. I moved to Berlin when it came to writing the book. I wish I could say it was intentional; to gain a better idea of memory and a traumatic past – two things prominent in the novel. But instead it was because I love the city and because my girlfriend got a job there. Nevertheless the city bled into the book. I was writing something that would eventually become 1870s America but Germany was a constant influence. From Babelsberg Park to the heavy snowfall, it’s a strange relationship to start – to connect the dots between the present and the past, across continents and eras. But it’s something I’m very grateful happened.
I started my second novel in late 2015 and spent some time at Pottery Cottage in Hay. It was around this time my brother sent me a photo of a sign he’d come across in a gift shop – ‘Careful or you’ll end up in one of my novels’ it read. I feel when I tell people about location and how important it is to me, this is sometimes a worry – that the locals will end up as characters. But it’s not like that. The characters are already there and the location gives me the nudge I need to start them thinking. I might have been writing a book set in dystopian Nairobi but something in 2015 Hay would have undoubtedly informed it. Not because I’m short of ideas or I despise research (I adore it), but because there’s a parallel between how important a location can be to me in my time and to them in theirs. Hay is such a place – it’s an important place. It doesn’t have to scream inspiration. Rather, it’s a home that encourages and promotes – if not for you, then for the people there. And, whether they’re a Confederate soldier or a bootlegger in ‘20s Chicago, it did the same for my characters too.
David Sanger was born in Maidstone in 1984. He has previously worked for Faber & Faber and Scholastic Children’s Books. He studied acting at LAMDA before reading English at King’s College London and has written for Sofilm Magazine. He has lived in Berlin and London, and is currently based in Kent.