Some Reflections on Writing “FOUR” – Why it is in Four Parts

Yesterday I did an interview for a news item for the alumni network of my high school, Concord College about my latest novel, FOUR, which was recently released as both an eBook and Paperback.

Although I covered some of this in the interview, and what I said was correct, when I went back over some of my notes that I kept as I wrote the novel, I was a bit surprised to see just how long ago certain aspects of the book became fixed – in particular the decision to have four parts/stories within the book.

While I didn’t sit down to start writing FOUR until late January 2020, after Tokyo 20/20 Vision was released, I had started jotting down ideas – as I do for all my books – well before that (I am already doing this for Iwakura Series book 4 although I won’t start writing it until at least 2022). I had already got two main ideas about stories that I wanted to fit in during the nine (which became 10 thanks to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics) year gap between 2011 when Hijacking Japan was set and when Tokyo 20/20 Vision was set – and they were even referred to in Tokyo 20/20 Vision.

There were two problems. First, these two stories would probably only take up two of the years, leaving large gaps still. Second, I couldn’t see how one of these stories could develop into a whole book. It was also this story that I wanted to work on first due to both practical reasons in relation to writing the following book (Iwakura Series book 3) and also issues related to the characters themselves.

I remember very distinctly getting the idea to split the book into four parts, with each part taking place in a different year, when driving back from London while listening to the audiobook of Prefecture D by Hideo Yokoyama (author of Climber’s High/Seventeen) which is also broken into parts. What I had forgotten, until I checked my notes today, was that that journey had happened in the Autumn of 2019 when returning from an American Football match in London, so a few months before I started writing the book properly.

From what I can tell, it looks like the splitting into four parts, travelling across four islands of Japan, and the decision to call the book FOUR were made soon after (although I had a different working title for it – which is a subject for another post). My post about the title and cover discusses the significance of the title a bit more.

Anyway, I’m glad that I kept some notes about the development of the book. I did this to a degree with Tokyo 20/20 Vision and have used that as the basis of some blog posts (links from the page about the novel). For Hijacking Japan many of these notes were initially developed into a chapter ‘About the book’ in the book itself, but have also led to posts listed on the page about the novel.

Further details about the book can be found here: FOUR.

Update (3 February 2021) – if you are Concord alumni, you can access the full interview mentioned above at this page Catching up with Chris Hood.

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