What You Wish For is a book about a group of people who believe in aliens. But it’s not a book about aliens – or UFOs, or abductions, or little grey men – even though on the surface it’s a thriller featuring a search for a missing woman who is convinced that she can communicate with extra-terrestrials and is set in a world of UFO-fanatics.
As Stephen King says in On Writing, most good books have themes, but the story should always come first…and as you are writing, the theme will emerge. This is exactly what happened when I wrote What You Wish For.
I started writing this book waaaay back in 1997 and it was originally going to be called Staring Into Space. Back then, aliens were trendy. The X Files was the biggest programme on TV, that Levi’s ad featuring ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo had recently been a massive hit, and the media was full of stories about alien autopsies and crop circles. Pre-millennial madness perhaps. One Sunday afternoon when I was walking on the East Hill in Hastings, where I lived, I bumped in to my best friend from primary school. I hadn’t seen him for years. We went for a drink and he told me, excitedly, that he had recently been to Roswell to see where the US Government kept the bodies of the aliens that had crash-landed in the New Mexico desert. His eyes burned with the conviction of a religious zealot.
This sparked the idea for a novel, and after reading up on what UFO-watchers believe, I started writing it. And as I worked on the novel, I realised the theme of the book I was writing: belief.