Tim Bairstow on:
A NIGHTINGALE IN THE SYCAMORE
“A Nightingale in the Sycamore” first took shape in my head late at night, listening to the music from the time of my own youth. Two or three of the songs feature in the novel, actually. They are songs such as we all have that, after a drink or three, as the night wears on, has us thinking back with that ache of nostalgia and wishing that life was still as thrilling and love as ferociously new as when we were ... well, eighteen I suppose! Like Nick and Dan: just eighteen and exploring what it means to love for the very first time.
I enjoyed writing Nick and Dan’s story. Observing Nick’s agonies of doubt and fear and insecurity and the final, irrevocable un-stoppering of his heart was done with a fond twinge of memory. I think theirs is a beautiful love story and I believe that it will resonate with many who read it. Certainly, the book is ‘sexier’ than most of my previous stuff in that the ‘bedroom’ scenes are rather more intimately observed. This is deliberate in that a key part of why first love is so compelling and so all-consuming is that it is, or at least it often was, coupled with the euphoric wonderment of the first, full physical expression of love. We need to go with Nick on his entire journey in to love, even at the risk of standing invisibly in his and Dan’s bedroom, if we are to understand him.
I wasn’t sure just what it would be that broke them up. It needed to be pretty shattering. As it was, in to my head prowled the character of Steven Byford, the boys’ teacher. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have tried to draw Byford as sympathetically as possible. Flawed he certainly is but a ‘stereotyped’ baddie ... I hope not!
Equally, I really didn’t know exactly what would happen when they met again, after twenty years apart and faced up to the pain that they had both felt and continued to feel. First love is unforgettable. I’m sure that we’ve all asked ourselves if it can be re-kindled. Some even try. It’s a risk and a big one ... let’s leave it at that for now! I hope you enjoy it and, along with it, your own memories!