Every writer is asked the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I hate that question because usually I don’t have an answer. Most of the time I can’t remember the source of a story or novel idea. And most of the time, it’s not just one idea that leads to a story emerging whole and rounded onto the page, but a combination of many thoughts, observations, and plot ideas.
With my new thriller The Family Man, not only can I remember where the idea came from, but I can remember the place and time! Although, I’m not sure I should really tell you. Are there any police officers reading this? If so, the rest of what you read here is completely made up…
Picture the scene: an old friend of mine suggests going out for a pint and some food. We haven’t seen each other for a while, so I’m keen to jump at the idea. A venue is chosen (Wetherspoons in Pontypool, not a place I’d been to before, and nor have I been since. In fact I think it’s closed down now. Not sure if that’s anything to do with me and my friend, but who knows. Anyway, I digress.)
We’ll call my friend Jon. That’s not his name. You’ll see why I’ve done this.
So, Jon and I met. We bought a drink, chose somewhere nice to sit, and started chatting. It seemed that Jon was considering a career change. This was soon after I’d started writing full-time, almost ten years ago now, and me doing that had (by his own admission) prompted Jon to examine his own career choices. He was applying for a job that meant he needed to be seen as very ‘clean’, and his background was already being checked. There were no problems. He had no worries.
We drank a bit more.
And as the beers went down, and then some food, and a bit more beer, we kept going back to those background checks, and what they wouldn’t find. No criminal record, no charge sheets, nothing worse than a speeding ticket and a couple of parking tickets. It was the same for me––at the time I think I had three points on my licence and had unsuccessfully attempted to talk my way out of two parking tickets.
(One of them was in Bideford. I’d joined other cars parked along a long wall at the seafront where there was, apparently, a sign reading ‘No Parking’. I couldn’t read the sign because of all the other cars there. I suspected that the parking attendants waited until the whole row was full before ticketing everyone and adding to their Christmas meal pot. But suggesting that in a letter got me nowhere. And now Bideford is somewhere I won’t go again. But I digress).
Jon commented on how we were two fine upstanding pillars of the community. I was a professional award-winning writer, and a governor at my local school. He was … well, his name’s not Jon, so I can’t tell you what he was, other than a Thoroughly Decent Bloke. (He still is. I haven’t given him a pseudonym because he since did something terrible. Honestly. It’s because of the job he subsequently went into. And other than that I can say no more, M’Lud).
“We could rob a bank and get away with it,” I said, jokingly. Jon laughed.
“No one would suspect us!” he said. I laughed.
We went to get another pint.
Fuelled by more alcohol, we talked about the ridiculous idea. Being a writer it had immediately struck a chord with me, and I was filing away all the comments and ideas as we came up with our Great Bank Robbery plan. Just one job, we both insisted. Hide the money for a year or more, then just pick at it. Don’t go from a Ford Focus to a Range Rover … edge up to a BMW, maybe. Mid-range. Don’t go from holidaying in Cornwall to the Maldives three times a year, but maybe a few city visits to Europe.
It was fun, and we finished the evening drunk and in high spirits.
Now, I might be a writer, and I make things up and sell them for a living, but now I’m telling the truth––we never did rob a bank. Honestly.
But the result of that discussion quite a few years ago is The Family Man:
A normal man, a pillar of the community, thinks that just one job will help his family out of a hole, give himself a sense of self-worth, and inject some excitement into his life. What he can’t prepare for is meeting a gang of real, hard-ass criminals who’ve come to rob the post office at exactly the same time.
So that’s the inspiration for The Family Man. The seed of the idea, at least, although there’s a lot more to the novel than Jon and I never talked about that evening. Part of that is the concept of a family in peril, something that’s informed my writing ever since my wife and I had our first child almost 18 years ago. And part of it is the mid-life crisis. If I did have one, it resulted in me discovering a love of exercise and entering ever-more extreme endurance sporting events.
In The Family Man, Dom’s mid-life crisis is nothing so innocent.
(c) Tim Lebbon
About The Family Man
You take one risk. Now, those you love must pay …
Dom Turner is a dependable husband, a loving father. A man you can rely on. But it only takes one day to destroy a seemingly perfect life.
Emma thought she could trust her husband, Dom. She thought he would always look after her and their daughter Daisy….
Then one reckless act ends in two innocent deaths – and Dom’s family becomes the target of a terrifying enemy.
There’s nowhere to hide. They’re on the run for their lives. And if Dom makes one more wrong move, he won’t have a family left to protect.
The Family Man is in shops now or pick up your copy online here!
Read our article about Tim Lebbon’s The Hunt – The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer: Long Days; Short Sprints by T J Lebbon here.