London Faces: Introducing a New London Serial

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j-h-big London is a city that always feels hungry. We run through it like electrical currents – must make sure the metropolis-machine keeps turning!

In such a pulsing, pounding sort of place, I too can get hungry. Not in a mad-rush-for-a-dirty-hamburger kind of way, but in a more wistful, gentle way. I’m hungry for that little bit of extra time, to breathe, stretch, smile. Yet when I have it, I always felt an absence of ways to fill these small, yet special moments. My hankering for something better than scrolling through social media, for something a little more highbrow, for something like a quick bite of light entertainment was unsatiated… Until I hit upon serials.

Serials have a long and admirable history. The tradition stretches back to our city’s original laureate Dickens – many of his bestselling books were first published episodically in newspapers. The press used this tactic of publishing fiction in dribs and drabs to acquire readers’ loyalty and to fill the novelty leisure hours after a long day’s labour in the wake of the industrial revolution. Since then many greats have done it; Martin Amis, Virginia Woolf, and Ruth Rendell, to my mind the best modern chronicler, who’s crime novels explore our streets in forensic detail.

Serials can fill the pockets of time we have at our disposal, when we’re sitting in a coffee shop or on the tube, with ten or fifteen minutes to take your mind off the daily grind. There’s plenty of flash fiction floating in the literary corners of our capital, but it’s a wonder there aren’t more serials about London life. So we’re delighted to announce that Londnr is readressing this today! A serial offers continuity… perhaps a commodity even more precious these days than time. In London, in Britain – in the world – change and uncertainty surround us, which in turn creates turbulence in our own, private lives. Everything is inextricably linked – but it doesn’t always bring cohesion. Conclusions, in anything from current affairs to love affairs, can be confusing. Part of the serial’s mighty attraction is that it is more about a journey than an ending.

In life, I take a cavalier approach, if you consider the number of times I’ve changed addresses in 20 years of London living, cheerfully shutting the door and handing back keys. But when I came to writing ‘the end’ in my own novel, Ready to Love, set in the capital and featuring people not unlike those you’re about to meet, I struggled. I could have gone on writing. In the end, I provided the conclusion readers expected and hoped for, but it was a bit of a fudge. I discovered endings to be as tricky in fiction as they are in real life.

I don’t ever want to leave London for some place new. (Tried it once. Didn’t work. Should have known it wouldn’t.) I’m still getting to know it. I love finding out big facts and chunks of history, but just as significant are the little things you overhear whilst walking. All of them are efforts to gain purchase on the place, to claim it for oneself. To belong. To connect. Every day, all over the city. That’s what I like to record. That’s what ‘London Faces’ is about. After all, the purpose of fiction is to make us feel less alone.

I’ve assembled a quartet of Londoners, all of whom love being here, who perhaps don’t need to be, who perhaps remain at their cost. They’re all twenty-somethings because that’s a fun age to be surviving in a big city.

There’s Deni, who projects confidence but is maybe less certain than she appears. She still lives and works with Marcus, her ex. (It’s complicated, but when is it ever not?) Marcus has a new girlfriend, Bree, who’s moved here from Sydney. (Will she last? Will they?) The quartet is completed by Scott, the only one of them born and bred in the capital, but who despite that, remains on the periphery of London life.

Over the next four days, you can meet them all and begin to discover their stories. And then, once a week, there’ll be a new instalment in the chronicle of their lives. You won’t have to read all of them to keep up, but they’ll be here if you want to dip in and out, making your own playlist of characters. The episodes reflect life in our beautiful city as it unfolds around them – and us.

Since the series is all about belonging, I’d love the readers to feel a sense of ownership over the serial, to actively partake and move the conversation. So if you’ve any ideas about where Deni, Marcus, Bree and Scott should go, what they should do next and what they feel, then please get in touch.

For now, I hope you enjoy the first episode!

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