Here’s another brilliant thing about writing novels (apart from impressing difficult-to-impress family members – yes, you, Tim -, getting to sleep a lot in the daytime and only rarely brushing your hair): you can talk as much as you want about things you really like, and no one can stop you.
For instance, I spent most of my childhood compulsively playing Tomb Raider, so I decided that Kit and Jamie, the brothers in my first novel, would do this too – that way, I got to reminisce fondly. I also chucked in a few other computer games I’ve enjoyed, including that old classic, Donkey Kong Country. (If I could change one thing about the novel now, it would be to drop in a couple of references to Age of Empires.) The world of the book you’re writing begins to seem like your own special, tailor-made universe, with you as the monarch.
I’m a Spurs fan, so I made Kit and Jamie Spurs fans too – what were they going to do, argue about it? The myriad food references are there because for about 80% of my waking hours I’m thinking about food and it’s hard to keep it out of the writing all the time. The sister Emma likes making religious-themed board games because when I was a teenager, I… um – nothing.
Perhaps all this makes me look unimaginative. I suspect you get to do it in one novel, and then never again. So I’ve had my fun. My second novel revolves around a religious cult. There are no computer games, no football, and not very many food descriptions. The characters do a lot of praying instead. But there’s an enjoyment in this approach, too – in removing yourself from the world of the novel rather than leaving little traces of yourself here and there. Maybe there’s an even greater fun in creating an entirely alien universe. So – onwards.