Growing up

When you’re a child, people tell you the most important thing is to be good and not get in trouble. If they’re feeling expansive, they mumble something about homework. As far as everyone tells you, those are the two important things in life: morality and homework. They also tell you to enjoy it while it lasts! That’s when you know they are crazy. Quite naturally, you are waiting out your childhood until that glorious day when you can get in your car, drive to the casino, order a beer, win thousands of pounds and then have sex. Because, based on all the evidence, that is what adulthood is like.

And then you get to adulthood, and it turns out there were quite a lot of things no one mentioned because they didn’t want to worry you. For instance: you have to get a job that will almost definitely be a variation on data entry. And: summer holidays aren’t a thing. Or: your mum is desperately unwell. Or: the family home is being repossessed. All the other adults chuckle and pat you on the back. Congratulations! Everything is depressing! Isn’t it funny how we didn’t tell you? Also, you are being made redundant.

I wondered what would happen to a character who didn’t quietly accept his lot in life – who kept hold of some of that childish optimism most of us leave behind. Someone whose job allowed them to meet people from all walks of life, who saw beauty everywhere and who really tried to be good, not just in principle, but all the time. What would happen if you dropped him in the middle of twenty-first century London? What if his boss was racist? What if his live-in landlord was an agoraphobic philosopher who still didn’t know about the internet? (I will admit, that last one wasn’t strictly necessary, but I have had some very weird landlords, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that never makes it into books.)

Mainly, I wrote Glass to explore how we can still be good people in a world that requires us to compromise, because, for me, that is what it really means to grow up.

First published on the W H Smith blog for Fresh Talent, Spring 2016.