Writing Book 2 of Roger’s adventures

Writing a book is a story in itself.

In January, 2013, I moved to New York which has given birth to more books, plays, songs and literary works than one can imagine.

A chance remark from a friend about the Algonquin Hotel, on 43rd Street, introduced me to the famous writer’s Round Table which for two decades entertained all manner of poets and writers, Dorothy Sayers and Groucho Marx among them. At the time I learnt about this feisty group, I was mid-plotting Book 2 and I promised myself that once all that preparation was complete, I’d get out into the big, hot, heaving city to write the story. I’d jump on the subway in the morning (or late at night too) and disappear into the endless crowds, find somewhere to write and let Roger’s next tale pour forth.

And that’s what happened.

Authors work alone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they work the same way each day, surrounded by the same things. With this book, I made sure of it.

Kenton

Day 33 – the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London

What is quintessentially British?

The Bentley motor car? Dark pubs with high back leather seats? A Vesper martini? Trippy remixes of Brit-bands like Garbage? The word ‘quintessentially’?

Last night, I experienced all of the above (except the word ‘quintessentially’) as I stepped out into the mid-winter London air, headed to Mayfair and stepped back in time. I used to work at the Millennium 20 years ago, back when I had hair (a bit foppish, not unlike Hugh Grant I like to think. Don’t laugh, I’ve got the photos to prove it). I was a rocker then – or a ‘popper’ more like, the band I was in was more Duran Duran than Bruce Springsteen – and I worked at the Millennium to make ends meet. Those gigs didn’t pay well, from memory. I lived like this for just shy of two years, pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-restaurant, super-stardom just around the corner, the world was my oyster. If it all sounds hopelessly romantic, it was, and so there really was no other place for me to go to recapture just a bit of those glory days and set to work on Roger Spoffin.

It hasn’t changed. Mayfair is renowned for its ‘Gentlemans’ hotels. Discrete. Low key. These were what hotels were like before Conrad Hilton began constructing the huge complexes we know today. The Dorchester. Claridges. The Connaught. 200 rooms in these charming places is considered large.

Being late on a Sunday, it was quiet. Only three or four others in the bar. Grosvenor Square was deserted. It was so easy. For the next few hours I sipped my Vesper and slipped into Roger’s world. The scene I was writing was in London 100 years earlier – almost to the month. Not far away from where I sat either (I’ll offer no spoilers here). And as the hours passed, I couldn’t help but think Grosvenor Square, and the Millennium Hotel too, must have barely changed at all over those 100 years.

Today’s word count: 1054

Word count to date: 78,098

PS I should add, earlier in the day we had lunch with one of my former bandmates and his family. After lunch he showed me his studio and just by chance (or destiny, perhaps) he had saved a recent clip of a band. Duran Duran, no less – playing live on ITV earlier in the year. The song finished and we both stood in silence. When 20 years of emotion hits you, there’s very little you can say.

  • The Millennium – on the left – at Midnight.

  • WIP and Vesper.

  • The bar at the Millennium.

  • The beautiful lobby (with Christmas tree)

  • Britannia etched into the glass.

  • Mayfair phone box.

  • Mayfair auto.

Details

Day 34 – Les Deux Magots, St Germain Paris

Hemingway, Brecht, de Beauvoir, Satre, Picasso, Albert Camus, James Joyce – any of those names ring a bell? It’s not a hotel, granted, but its literary pedigree is practically unrivaled so I went there instead of the nearby L’Hôtel, Oscar Wilde’s final resting place where he famously quipped while lying on his deathbed, ‘This wallpaper is dreadful. One of us will have to go.’

It was far quieter than I expected (I think my time in New York has warped my expectations of the rest of reality to be frank). I arrived at 10 and requested a table inside, at the back. I explained to my Maitre’d I was only there for a drink and to work and he gave me a nod and smile that I took to mean, ‘Of course, sir. I took you for an author the moment you walked in.’ So, for the next hour and a half, I sipped my Hennessy (‘Ah, perfect’, thinks you) and Act 3 of Roger Spoffin took off. And it really did – I finished with one of my best ever hourly word counts.

Hemingway was onto something in this place. I didn’t try the food, but everything that passed by me looked tremendous. I bade farewell and took a photo or two, thinking, one day, I’ll be back.

Today’s word count : 1400 (exactly)
Word count to date: 79,498

  • The cafe from where I sat. Fairly slow night.

  • Je suis tragic author

  • Note empty Hennessy glass.

  • The beautiful cafe at midnight.

  • Cafe de Flore – the famous rival on the opposite corner.

  • One of the window displays in Louis Vuitton next door.

Details

Day 35 – the Adlon Hotel,
#77 (formerly #1) Unter den Linden, Berlin

This place is a microcosm of Berlin. Sitting in it, I can hardly believe some of the things that have happened here.

The most famous hotel in Germany, it was built only after the aid of Kaiser Wilhelm 2 was enlisted, who enabled the purchase of the site by Mr Adlon and the subsequent demolition of the existing Schinkel-designed building. ‘Germany must have a hotel to rival the Ritz’ – which had recently opened in both Paris and London – was his thinking. (This is the same chap who also figured Germany needed a navy to rival that of Britain’s thereby triggering the largest arms race in history).

The Adlon was also the hub of the bopping, buzzing, jazz-loving Berlin of the 20’s. And of course, in the 30’s the Nazis infested it. In the lounge where I sat, one afternoon not long after he came to power, Hitler came to meet the daughter of the American Ambassador. The horrific scene – you can read about it in ‘the garden of beasts’ – was essentially a potential match-up. He liked blonde women. One can only speculate on the effect on history should the dictator have taken a liking to this well-connected American girl. As it was, he found her a tad crass. Which seems a little ironic.

After the war, the hotel was all but destroyed. The East Germans used the only surviving wing for a while before finally tearing it down in the 80’s. They also renumbered all the buildings on Unter den Linden, which now fell in the east, and hence the hotel went from #1 to #77. The place was rebuilt completely in the late 90″s after the fall of the wall.

That’s just some of its history.

I went on a Monday night and it was very quiet. Cars can’t drive through the Brandenburg Gate so that end of the street is unusually quiet at the best of times. However, I’d just missed – by barely an hour – a protest of about 4000 people right outside the door. (See photo from the front page of the next morning’s paper)
It is a beautiful hotel – the first I’d visited with a fountain in the middle of the lounge, which has a very calming effect. (Roger Spoffin went well, in case you’re wondering.) When I left, it was late. I had to wake up my taxi driver. I took the photos of the building and left.

Then, on the very next street, I saw the riot police. They’d been watching me ever since I’d exited the hotel. Only I’d been looking the other way.
If its history tells you anything, Berlin will surprise you if you do that.

Today’s word count: 1702
Word count to date: 81,200

  • The beautiful (and deserted) lounge.

  • Author and WIP (and empty Berlin G&T)

  • The bar (also deserted).

  • In the hotel shop.

  • The Adlon, Berlin.

  • View of the Brandenburg Gate from the hotel’s front door at midnight.

  • The entrance on Unter den Linden.

  • This was the demonstration I missed by an hour or so. Right outside the front door.

Details

Day 36 – Hotel Locarno, Rome.
Somewhere near Piazza Popolo (I’m sure I’ll never find it again).

Sorry for this. Rome deserves so much better, but I’m busy (the Orient calls). This will be a short post.

Rome is: vibrant; spectacular; ancient ancient ancient; yet also calm and beautiful. I caught a cab north early one morning through the Borghese gardens (to visit a pool, naturally) and they were beautiful. Like passing through a Renaissance pastoral painting.

Rome has: beautiful shops; macchiatos for $1; fantastic gelato everywhere; spruikers selling selfie-sticks everywhere; tons and tons of museums; people who love kids (more than I do, at times).

The hotel I chose is apparently a haunt of writers and film makers. I sat in the outdoor covered garden and when I left, at only 11pm, I was the last but one guest. And it was Saturday night. Maybe the Romans kick on elsewhere.

Rome comes highly recommended – for the Vatican Museums alone. And the ice cream. And the macchiatos.

Today’s word count: 700
Word count to date: 81,900

  • My office for the night – part of the night, that is.

  • E tu, author?

  • The lobby with elegant elevator.

  • The beer garden (aka my office) is behind those gates.

  • The bar.

  • At the fountain in the Piazza Polomo at midnight.

Details

Day 37 – Noah’s Ark hotel
No. 23 Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Really there was nowhere else I could write. Noah’s Ark – Sinsamene’s Ark – and Turkey being the home of Mount Ararat – my hotel overlooking the Bosphorus, that prized waterway the allies tried to conquer in WW1 (the backdrop to the series) and which cost so many lives (and formed the ANZACs)

So I stayed in and wrote while the kids slept.
From the terrace on the hotel’s roof there was a clear view of Hagia Sophia and further out on the point, the Topaki Palace. Istanbul claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world. While the museums in London and Paris are amazing for what they’ve collected/pulled out of the ground, Istanbul (and Rome too) are where they’ve pulled the stuff from. We had dessert one night – the only customers there – and the owner told us a little of the history of the place. There’s gold everywhere in Istanbul apparently, whenever people excavate they find it. But there’s a big treasure missing. Apparently when Constantinople was conquered, the palaces were left deserted and empty and all the gold was gone. It’s never been found.

I like stories like that.

This will be my last Roger Spoffin writing post outside of Australia. Day 1 at the Algonquin seems so long ago. Perhaps it’s apt that, as a fervent lover of history (which hopefully is evident in the novels), I’ve stepped back further and further in time over the past month.
From New York – about 400 years old; to Stockholm/London/Paris – a couple of thousand years old; to Rome – 2500? 3000? years old (I’m in the airport sans wifi and can’t check my facts); to Istanbul 3000 years old plus. I suppose it’s only to Jericho from here.
Instead, we’re Sydney bound, a mere 200 years old. But the beaches are ancient and the land is ancient and I’ve got a good imagination. That will be enough to continue Roger Spoffin.

Today’s word count: 1,471
Word count to date: 84,276

PS In case you’re wondering, I’m midway through Act 3. Acts 3 & 4 are the shortest in the book.

  • The hotel – it’s actually not as crooked as it looks.

  • Noah’s Ark. (Not quite as evil as Sinsamene’s Ark.)

  • My desk in the lobby. (I pushed the guest computer aside and forgot to take a selfie).

  • The Author – marvelling at the wonders of the Orient.

  • Some of the beautiful Turkish sweets to be found everywhere.

  • The Blue Mosque (so named because of the tiles inside).

  • The view from the terrace of our hotel. Hagia Sophia in the middle.

  • Hagia Sophia – the world’s largest church for 1000 years. Now a museum.

  • On the Bosphorus looking back towards the old city.

  • Our hotel’s logo 🙂

Details

Day 38 – Zetland Hotel, (formerly known as The Green Park Hotel, formerly known as the Zetland Hotel)

Definitely more ‘Give me a home among the gum-trees’ than, ‘If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to.’ The Zetland’s a nice little art deco Aussie pub in a rapidly gentrifying area. It’s up the road from the cunningly-named Green Park train station (good luck finding the park) and for a while was known as the Green Park hotel, but thankfully that nonsense has passed and it’s reverted to its original title – the Zetland.

I played there numerous times in the early 90’s (see photos) and it wasn’t a lovely place. We weren’t playing lovely music so I guess we were a good fit, but I must say as a former rocker (or, rock-dance-groove-popper) it’s disheartening to revisit old haunts and find the band rooms all converted into pokie dens (poker machines, for my American friends) or bistros. That’s twice it’s happened to me now. Where do bands play these days? Are there still bands playing in pubs in Sydney? It was hard enough 20 years ago (Gosh! Was it really that long ago??) to find venues that would take you (forget about being paid). I’m too old to care now. I’ve got other interests, but it’s sad isn’t it?

I sat there nevertheless and dutifully worked away occasionally looking up and remembering the “glory days” (and don’t the words of that Springsteen classic ring true now? Except for the bit about my husband running out on me and leaving me with three kids.) My chicken burger was nice. The bossa nova (I kid you not) playing through the piped music was nice enough, though odd, and Roger Spoffin flowed freely. But deep inside me, I knew something was hurting.

I left the Zetland. There’s nothing for me there now. If there’d been a screen door, I’d have let it slam behind me.

(sigh)

Today’s word count: 2787
Word count to date: 125,177

  • The Zetland

  • Once, I was a rocker

  • On the left, behind that red wall, was the band room.

  • The band room – 1993

  • Band poster, 1993, with ‘Alarmd’ (sic) headlining the semi-finals

  • The original Art Deco bar

  • The beach!

  • The cricket!

Details

Day 39 – Hotel Intercontinental, Sydney

The End
Fine
Das Ende
La fin
Son
Slutet (Ursäkta?)

Today, I finished.
“Roger Spoffin and the Return of the Venger Knights” (working title) is done. At least Draft 1 is. It was a full year ago that I began this adventure at the Algonquin on 44th Street in the heart of Manhattan, home of the famous ‘Writer’s Table’. I peaked early. That first day I wrote 4004 words – my highest ever word count. Today I pumped out a mere 456, but that was all the final chapter needed. I chose the Intercontinental Hotel because it was here I worked throughout my University years. I remember I always had a hotel pad and pen in my pocket during the long shifts and I took any opportunity then to write. The hotel is still dramatically beautiful, twenty years later.

Clearly I got carried away with Book 2. My 4 Act structure was meant to total 100,000 words, allowing for 20,000 or so to be chopped. Instead, it’s rounded out at 133,000 words. Roger evidently had more adventures, more tests and trials, more romantic complications (yes, you read that right) and more bewilderingly bizarre experiences to deal with than even I could have predicted. From London to Alexandria to Jerusalem to Persia and Scotland; from the Wentwillingley Christmas pantomime and the passionate embrace of Miss Justine Beedingslump (remember her?) to a tear-soaked farewell from Anna in the desert outside Shiraz, there’s a lot to keep the readers turning the pages in this one. That, at least, is my hope.

And what of Book 1? Well, I’m midway through what can only be described as a challenging re-write working closely with a UK author who is acting as a mentor. I’ll say no more. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading these posts and commenting on them and encouraging me onwards. Roger, Doff, Marty, Anna, Melphisolees, the wicked Sinsamene and even Justine and Jillian Beedingslump are more real to me than ever before.

Today’s word count: 456

Final word count: 133,181

Location: http://bit.ly/1Pi1mlO

  • Beautiful Sydney Harbour

  • Nearly there!

  • Work In Progress

  • The final Daily Word Count

  • The Cortile

  • Artwork in the lobby

  • The famous Intercontinental lions

Details