is the author of ROCKSTAR ENDING, an emotional exploration of a dystopian near future world, where the UK government begins promoting euthanasia to the public. This is a tricky subject to grapple with, but Nicola has done so with eloquence and (where appropriate) humour.
We chatted about her book, what inspired it, how she crafted it, and how it feels to be picked up for a TV adaptation. You can listen now, or read the free prequel novella, FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK first, which is below.
The full ROCKSTAR ENDING book is available for the next few days at the discounted price of 99p.
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FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK
A bit from Chapter One.
(Or you can read the whole free novella by clicking here)
Bob’s nerves were jangling after a particularly dreadful night. He had stayed up way too late watching the election results.
He suspected that the other people in the lift had been up into the small hours too. Their eyes glazed, they wearily gripped grubby re-usable coffee cups, a clashing spectrum of muted spring colors in various sizes.
There was something reassuring about the smell of the coffee which Bob inhaled so deeply and deliberately that his breathing made the woman next to him feel uncomfortable.
She shifted a few centimeters away, hoping that no one would notice. Bob closed his eyes and allowed himself to listen to the last few bars of ‘Low Rider’ by War, its cheery riff and uncomplicated lyrics carrying him over the threshold of another day at the office. At least it was Friday.
The white sunlight bouncing off his desk made Bob’s eyes smart. He resisted the urge to close them again, and tilted his computer screen downwards to deflect the glare. Even then, it was not easy to read his emails.
Around the office, which occupied one of several floors the bank leased in a decades-old tower in London’s Canary Wharf, people were gradually straggling in. It was dress-down Friday. One by one, men and women with inconsistent interpretations of ‘smart casual’ perched at their soulless desks, which were clear of anything that might mark a space out as belonging to a particular human being. They weren’t allowed to pin anything on the acoustic screens. No photos. No reminders.
Only employee comms was authorized to sully the thin, waist-high beige fabric walls that encircled each desk. Now and then, a company notice would appear. Today, someone had distributed a small postcard promoting the bank’s financial compliance rules. It had a monochrome photo of a blond white woman, in dark heels and a pin-striped suit, looking rather sorry for herself in a prison cell. Not a dress-down day in stir then, Bob thought. Maybe pinstripes are the new orange?
His mood lifted a degree as he smiled at his own joke. A brighter little poster caught his eye. He had seen this one before. They were always having to replace it. A big hand-drawn heart — which came in different colors — surrounded by a fringe of strips you could tear off from the edge, each with a phone number and email address on it. The suicide prevention hotline.
He would have called in and arranged to work from home, only his boss, Lola, who had been away on business all week, had wanted to see him. She hadn’t said what it was about.
First, though, he had to join a tedious conference call with a team of software developers in Sweden. Their oscillating lilt was usually soothing and easy to follow, but this morning he was struggling to stay engaged. He tried downing a big mouthful of lukewarm Americano, but it only made him more agitated. He put his phone face down so he couldn’t be distracted by his social media feeds. It was no use. His focus kept drifting back to the big screen on the wall near his desk where the BBC News kept rolling.
Although he couldn’t hear what the reporter was saying, he could read what had happened. The text shooting across the bottom of the screen fed him fragments of
the story, so he could piece it together if he just kept half an eye on it.
LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVE
SUFFER HUGE LOSSES
A pie chart appeared, with just under half of the circle colored in yellow, dwarfing the red and blue segments. In the run-up to the election, hundreds of MPs had resigned from the old powerhouses and joined the centrist party, the Liberal Democrats, in protest at their own parties’ escalating internal conflict and vacillating policies. The Lib Dems had run on a ticket that promised to build a more moderate, collaborative future, and change the electoral system which many believed was no longer fit for purpose.
The turnout had been appalling, but it looked like close to half the people who had bothered to vote thought they would give the Lib Dems a try. They couldn’t do any worse than the others.
YUTHENTIC WIN FIFTEEN SEATS
A candy-striped red and blue triangle squeezed into the chart.
“Bob? Do you agree?”
He needed to get back into the zone for the call.
“Sorry guys, you were breaking up. Could you run through that again?”
I really enjoyed that interview. I was wanting to get Nicola on the show for a while. I knew she would make a great guest, and it was a privilege to talk to her about her writing process.
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This is my first time publishing a podcast directly from Substack, and I am enjoying it. I think this is the way forward!