Their holiday brochure said 18 -- 30 ...But they've just turned 35. After ten years together Charlie Mansell has been dumped by his live-in girlfriend, Sarah. All he wants to do is wallow in misery, but mates Andy and Tom have a better idea: a week of sun, sea and souvlaki in Malia -- party capital of the Greek islands. But Charlie and his mates aren't eighteen any more. Or even under thirty. And it shows. It isn't the cheap beer, the late nights or even the fast-food that's the problem. It's girls. And life. And most of all ...each other. Wish You Were Here is a heart-warming, funny and wise tale about love and friendship and how seven days in the sun can change your life forever.
A strange but true fact is that it came to me while I was lying on a beach in Malta. I'd spent a week lying in the sun working through a pile of books I'd brought with me. It was the first time in ages that I'd had the time to get so into reading and I found it very inspiring. Two days into the holiday I came up with the plot and then the title for Wish You Were Here and suddenly I wasn't just on holiday I was doing research!
No, not as such. In my early twenties I went inter-railing with a mate and ended up in Corfu for a week. Though we camped in the hills in the evening we'd head down to Brit dominated resorts like Benitses and watch all the crowds of 18-30s going mental. When I pinned down exactly what Wish You Were Here was going to be about I decided that I'd have to do some more research and so along with a friend of mine I headed out to Malia, in Crete, and like any good anthropologist immersed myself in the culture!
The kind of man who is still reeling from the end of a ten year relationship! I like Charlie a lot. Of all my characters so far I think he's one I could definitely be mates with. I like the fact that he has days when only his favourite "Death To The Pixies" T-shirt will do. I like the fact that, like me, he feels slightly self-conscious lying t-shirtless on a beach. And most of all I like the fact that he cares about his mates so much even though he does have an odd way of showing it at times.
There was no thinking as such. I just thought it would be interesting and would result in a nice bit of conflict between Tom and Andy with Charlie being in the middle. That said, I knew when I decided that his character was going to be a Christian, that he wasn't going to be the nutter Christian type that appears to be a staple of pretty much EVERY soap opera in the world.
That plotline only came to me when I was writing Lisa's first big scene in Charlie's kitchen. There's a point where she hugged him, and even though I hadn't intended it to have any deeper kind of meaning I realised that there seemed to be one in there anyway and so decided to go with it.
I suppose that in Charlie, Lisa sees what it might be like to be with a man who loves you the way you've always wanted to be loved. And in Lisa, Charlie sees what it might be like to have a loyal girlfriend. The fact that they're ultimately brought together by their understanding of Andy's often difficult to love personality, adds another layer of complexity.
I wanted Wish You Were Here to feel as real as possible and given that a lot of people only get to read when they're on holiday it seemed to make sense that Charlie would do that too. I made him read The Da Vinci Code because everyone in the world was reading it when I was on the beach; I selected Touching The Void for him because it was non-fiction and to some degree about the idea of betrayal in a male friendship; and White Teeth, because it's the kind of book that's on all my friend's bookshelves and also because it meant that Charlie could make a joke about giving up on the book in part because Ms Smith is "quite foxy." Bizarrely, I can see how from his point of view at least, that might make sense.
The restaurant in the book that Charlie takes Donna to just before her flight is based on a real one in Heraklion and the food there is absolutely amazing.