If you’ve read blog posts one to eight in this series giving the background to my Bath Novel Award shortlisted novel You’re Beautiful, you’ll know that I’m big into location research. Some of the locales in the story didn’t need as much research as others. The beach where most of the action takes place was easy to convey in accurate detail, as I was there nearly every weekend during the writing of the first draft. The shitty flat that protagonist Lisa’s shitty boyfriend Dan lives in is closely based on a real shitty flat I once lived in with a shitty boyfriend of my own. But for some scenes, with locations that were less immediately familiar to me, I felt that I needed to go myself to the places described, in order to be as authentic as possible. I love doing this kind of research. I am the only person I know who has done the Trans Siberian railway twice—the first time as a regular tourist, the second time as a literary researcher, fact-checking the novel I wrote as a result of the first trip. (That was the first novel I ever wrote, it’s still my favourite, and I hope one day some kind publisher will love it as much as I do.)
But anyway, back to You’re Beautiful. So my previous blog post was all about my location research visit to Tokyo’s Mori Tower, for a scene where Lisa stands on the rooftop and feels lonely as she looks out over the vast concrete city. One of the pivotal scenes towards the end of the book takes place in the New York Bar of the Shinjuku Park Hyatt, made famous by Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation. I had been several times to this gorgeous bar with its fabulous fifty-second floor view of Tokyo, and “location research” seemed like an excellent reason to go there again. I particularly wanted to check the view from the window. But this particular research trip was fairly futile as the view on that day was obscured by cloud. My research photo is below. The one above, stolen from the Internet, along with my memories of real and cinematic visits to the bar, would have to do.