Shortly after the publication of my first book, A Half-Forgotten Triumph, I outlined my initial thoughts on what was already being referred to as “the San Francisco book”:
At that time, I was considering various options on its subject matter and format:
- standard travel diary;
- guide book;
- reflections on aspects of life in the city;
- features on some of its larger than life characters; and
- analysis of the British influence on the City.
A year on, all of those options still appeal to me, and I would fully intend to tackle them all in the future. But if I am to make progress with this first book in the series, the time has come to set aside doubts and decide which course to take.
I keep returning to the idea of a combination of the first three options. Indeed, the material that I have written already has adopted that approach.
The book will follow an English couple on a month long vacation in the City. From their rental cottage in Bernal Heights, they will explore both the most celebrated and lesser known locations, reflecting, not only on their experiences, but also the issues affecting tourists and residents alike in modern day San Francisco.
Those reflections will inevitably carry an English flavour, similar to the style of both my blog and the Tony Quarrington: An Englishman’s Love Affair with San Francisco Facebook page.
I have had an acceptable working title for some time – Smiling on a Cloudy Day. Some readers may recognise the direct quote which, I think, reflects neatly my habitual engagement with the “City by the Bay”.
I’ll confess that even reaching this point has not been easy, and progress has been slow.
Perhaps it’s laziness, perhaps lack of imagination – or, more likely, both – but I struggle to write authentically about San Francisco when I am domiciled most of the time more than five thousand miles away.
There is so much support material available online – not only websites and other resources, but hundreds of videos online on every aspect of life in the City.
Want to ride the Powell and Hyde cable car line?
Click on the one of several YouTube videos.
Want to know what it’s really like living in the Mission district?
Click on one of the many “vox pop” interviews with residents on YouTube.
Want to absorb yourself in one of the many festivals that abound in San Francisco on almost any given weekend?
I think you know the answer.
Easy then isn’t it?
No. It’s very hard – well, at least for me.
James Joyce may have been able to capture the essence of daily life in Dublin despite only occasionally, and then briefly, returning to his native city a handful of times after first leaving it in the year in which Ulysses is set.
It helps, of course, if you have spent the first twenty two years of your life in that environment. Being a genius and a master of the English language too are hardly handicaps.
I can claim neither of those advantages.
So I’m left with memories from a dozen visits, bolstered by notes and blog articles at the time, and those YouTube videos to convey the spirit of life in the city.
Ultimately, the readers will be the judge of how successful I have been.
Finally, there are a number of practical decisions to make over the coming months as the book comes together, notably the projected publication date and form the book will take (print or e-version).
On timing, my current plans are to publish midway between my planned trips to the City in May and September of next year, enabling me to promote it locally.
I will continue to use this blog to relay my emerging thoughts, and, where appropriate, trail some of the content.