You’re at the kitchen table, drooping over yet another rejected story. In her basket, Ruby, the cocker spaniel, looks expectant, head twitching and nose up. Then the door bell rings. She must have sensed a visitor. Anyway, she’s at the door ahead of you.
‘Hi, Ruby! I’ve come, as promised.’
The visitor sweeps past you into the kitchen while you remain, frozen, on the doormat. It is Hilary bloody Mantel, isn’t it? Are you going to scream? Faint? Wake up from a dream? And how does this world-renowned woman know your dog?
By now Hilary’s in the kitchen. She picks up your crumpled story, unearths a pencil from her bag, and starts scribbling all over it. ‘Just make me a coffee,’ she says, giving Ruby an absent-minded pat. ‘Instant will be fine, but make it strong.’
You’re in a trance as you boil the kettle. This wonderful writer is sitting at your kitchen table, biting savagely at the end of her pencil and working her way through your story. How did this happen? You’ve nearly lost control of your bodily functions. The power of speech is certainly beyond you.
‘Right.’ She drops the pencil back in her bag and grabs the coffee mug before you spill it. ‘It wasn’t that bad,’ she says, knocking the Gold Blend back in one gulp. ‘Just needed tweaking. My first drafts of Wolf Hall were utter crap, believe me.’
She hands you the empty mug and heads for the door, Ruby at her heels. Then she’s gone, in a flash. You stare down the street. No sign of her. There’s not even a car or a taxi in sight.
Ruby scampers round the side of the house towards the garden through a shaft of sunlight, her flapping ears magnified by a trick of the light into giant golden fairy wings.
Okay – you were warned it was a fairy story – BUT wouldn’t we all agree that any story of ours rewritten by someone like Hilary Mantel would become fabulous? No story is without hope. We just have to keep rewriting…