I’m nervous. There are no two ways about it. Sweaty palms, unable to sit still, I keep touching my hair and face to make sure it isn’t sticking out in all directions, and that I don’t have toothpaste on my chin.
This is the first time I’m interviewing one of my characters for the Choc Lit Gazette, and this guy, Aidan Morell from Up Close, is Drop Dead Gorgeous. Classic features, thick brown hair (a tad too long?), a physique to die for. Bright green eyes, like peridot gems, regarding me as if he knows something I don’t.
I clear my throat and begin the interview with a confidence I don’ t feel. “So, Aidan,” I say, “I understand you trained as an artist.” He nods. “I did a college course, yes, but I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I used to scribble in my school books, much to my mother’s horror, but now I’m a bit more sensible and carry a small sketch pad with me for whenever inspiration strikes.”
“I’ve noticed you do a lot of seascapes,” I continue. “Is this why you chose to make your home on the North Norfolk coast?” “Not really,” he shrugs. “One of the joys of being an artist is that it’s a very mobile profession, and you can do it anywhere. As it happens, I was born and raised here, and came back to help my mother when, uhm, my brother became ill. I then realised that the wild beauty of the place inspires me in my work.” He throws me a smile, and my stomach does a little dive.
“But before that, I understand you were in the Navy, as a Mine Clearance Diver,” I say. “Could you tell us a little bit more about that?” “Sure. An MCD deals with any explosive ordnance below the high watermark. The Iraq War was over, but there were still a lot of unexploded mines bopping around in the Gulf, and it was our job to make sure it was safe for shipping. And before you ask, because I can see you’re about to, I was injured, yes, but not by a bomb, just an accident on board. One of my colleagues wasn’t quite so lucky…”
Feeling bolder, now that the interview is going so well, I pose the question I’ve been burning to ask him. “Your mentioned earlier that you came back because your brother was ill. Isn’t it true that he attempted suicide several times, and eventually succeeded? What were your feelings about that?”
In the silence which ensues it dawns on me that I have truly put my foot in it, and in my first interview too. A vintage Gyland gaff. Choc Lit Gazette are never, ever going to ask me to interview one of my characters again!
“Are you for real?” he says eventually. The gentleness in his voice is almost too much for me to bear, and makes me feel like a naughty child brought to task by a kindly neighbour. “What do you imagine my feelings to be? However, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Okay,” I say, swallowing hard, “perhaps we could return to your art. I’ve had a good look at some of your pictures and see you use a lot of greys, but when I get up close to the paintings, those greys suddenly turn into many other colours. How do you achieve that effect?” His eyes light up, and he launches into a lengthy explanation about blending oils, about light and brush strokes, all of which appears to be quite involved and technical.
But it’s his passion which shines through – passion for his work, for what he regards as purity, indeed for life and everything in it. I’m beginning to form a picture of the real Aidan which unfortunately is outside the scope of this interview.
Finally he gets up, and we part, shaking hands and exchanging promises to keep in touch. “And I’m sorry about that personal question earlier,” I add. “Don’t sweat it,” he replies and turns to leave. From the doorway he sends me another smile which has me in turmoil and makes me wonder what life with this guy would be like.
If I wasn’t already hitched, and he wasn’t fictitious, I mean…