I had a strange encounter the other night. (This is nothing to do with boats or boating or canals by the way so you can clock out now if that is why you are reading these ramblings. Sorry.). Anyway, my old friend Hector was performing at a local folk night so we went along to show support. I took my smallpipes along and treated the thirty or so audience to a rendering of a tune called Hector the Hero. Appropriate I thought. People always let me play when I take the pipes along because it's something different. I'm digressing again, sorry.
After I did my bit, a lady whose name I did not catch, sang a couple of songs "what she had wrote" and mentioned that she had written a couple of novels. Now as regular sufferers of this blog will recall, I am in the process of penning a literary masterpiece myself, ( now at 49,130 words, so only 30,870 to go) , so at the end of the evening I accosted the lady in question to pick her brains.
Well I was a bit taken aback when the first thing she said was "Are you insured?". "Against what?" I asked, and she replied, "Being sued."
She insisted I change at least the name (fair enough) and preferably the sex (?) of any characters that might be recognised from real life and not to use the real names of any places or institutions that might get upset at what I write. I said the only place I had mentioned critically was Basingstoke, and even then only to express mild fictional surprise that one of my characters should want to go there. "Oooh change it", she said, "call it Fazingstoke or something or they could sue!"
I have, I recall used the trade names of certain types of confectionery, but only in praise. That's product placement isn't it? Maybe I should do a deal to write something like "He bit into his delicious satisfying Mars bar. Now he was ready to work, rest and play." You never know, I might get rich.
Blimey. It all seems a bit over the top to me. I wonder what kinds of book she writes. It sounds like she has upset somebody for sure. My novel is hardly Private Eye in terms of litigation risk, although one criminal in it is loosely based upon a probably innocent person I once met. Anyway, as a number of my characters are inspired by real life people, I did look through the book today and make a few subtle changes to anonymise some characters. You will be pleased to know however, that I have resolutely refused to rename Basingstoke.