By Martyn Bedford, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: April 21, 2011
A Visit to the Dentist
One of the most common questions I get asked as a writer, is: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Well, the seed for FLIP was planted in my head more than 40 years ago . . . by a visit to the dentist.
Of course, dentists are always putting things in your head (or, at least, in your mouth) – fillings, braces, pointy tools, cotton swabs, their fingers and so on – but even back in the 1960s you didn’t expect to go for a regular check-up and come away with an idea for a novel.
Not that I knew I had the idea for a novel at the time. I was nine or ten years old and had recently registered with a new dental surgery. Mum took me for my first appointment and the receptionist checked me off against a list before pulling out a card from a filing cabinet. (This, remember, was way before PCs and computer databases.)
She read out an address. Mum shook her head. ‘No, that’s not us.’ The receptionist frowned. She flicked through the cards in the cabinet again and produced another one. ‘Oh, it seems we have two Martyn Bedfords,’ she said, smiling at me across the counter. She tapped the first card. ‘This one spells his name with a “y”, as well.’
These days, thanks to Google, I know there are several Martyn Bedfords in the UK alone but back then, to my boyish mind, it was astonishing that there might be even one other person with the exact same name – and living in the same neighbourhood. You’d think I’d be resentful or indignant: how dare someone else steal my name? But I wasn’t.
That day and for a long time afterwards I was fascinated by the idea of another “me” wandering the streets of south Croydon – a boy (I pictured him as a boy, but he could’ve been ninety-six for all I knew) that I might bump into on the bus or in a shop or down the park. From there, it was an easy leap of the imagination to swap lives with him.
Suppose me and this other Martyn Bedford switched places? Switched families, homes, schools. Never mind that we wouldn’t look like each other – it’s important not to let the facts get in the way of a good story, as I learnt later in my first career as a journalist. To me, we were twins. Separated at birth, probably.
As I say, it was four decades before this episode resurfaced in my mind and evolved into the idea that became FLIP. I sometimes wonder what became of that other Martyn Bedford, or whether he ever knew that I existed. I just hope he got all the root-canal work I never had.
Enter to win an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of FLIP.
For more blog tour fun with Martyn Bedford, visit:
April 18th – Figment
April 19th – Cracking the Cover
April 20th – Suvudu.com
April 22nd – Random Acts of Reading