Personal thoughts on Coffee Maestro

In the first two books Letting Go and Travellers I designed the books for a business audience. I guess it was what I knew at the time. I recall a conversation with ex-workmate when I’d reached the stage of disclosing that I was actually spending my time writing. ‘I’ve been working on a book and I’m trying to bring the size down to 40,000 words’. Without looking up or displaying any other interest he simply answered, ‘You can’t make it 4,000 can you?’

In business it doesn’t matter that your book is all about how your belief that you don’t have time to read is an illusion, unless you can say it in 4,000, or better still 400, or optimally 4 words. The design of the books reflected this aim of making them be and seem accessible and an easy read.

Well business didn’t exactly beat a path to my door, and maybe I grew a little, feeling a little more confident that I could write a book that took a different shape. Coffee Maestro, or Six Days as it was originally called, looks and feels a lot more like a novel and for example doesn’t feature quotations.

In many ways the book is autobiographical. It tells the story of someone who finds their thinking changed, in a sense turned upside down. They have six days in which to come to terms with what this means, and face the option, as they see it, of putting their thinking back how it was, or understanding what has replaced it.

The time-scale is much compressed, for days read years, or perhaps even decades, and it reflects a shift in thinking that I’ve experienced.

The story follows the main character (Bob) through this process of untangling the change and whilst he might initially think that a good dose of analysis is what is required, that would be the approach of his old thinking. That’s the funny thing about change. You don’t just change where you chose to look, you change what it is you are able to see.

The story is quite simple and leads Bob through a series of seemingly everyday interactions, the kind of things he’s encountered throughout his life. What he begins to notice is that he’s seeing new things in these events, fragments of something new, created by being open to seeing them. He meets a number of characters along the way, again these are based not on specific people I’ve met, but certainly heavily shaped by them. It would be good to think that they might see glimpses of themselves in the book.

The idea of the boom is that Bob is on a quest. He thinks he knows where it must lead, (a showdown with his boss to retain his job), and what needs doing, (create a plan for the business). Along the way he collects fragments of ideas that at first he tries to use to meet these aims, but as his journey progresses he realises that they also shape the nature of the aims.

Actually as I write this I’m finding it quite difficult to describe what the book is about, which in a way I quite like. If I could simply say what the book is, that description might just as well be the book, and that’s what I wanted to avoid. The book is the story of Bob’s journey, but is an invitation for the reader not simply to be an observer, but to be invited, incited to think about their own journey.

I’m really quite pleased with how the book has turned out. Of course I could continue working on it, but I think I’ve reached the point where I need to set it free and let it become your book, not mine.

I was really fortunate that I gave the first draft copy to my friend Margaret Campbell who did an amazing job of reading through it and giving me some wonderful feedback. The best art of it was sitting with Margaret as she described the book through the characters. I was amazed that she knew their names and what they’d like and feel. It really brought the book to life for me. It’s strange how the characters existed for me, but their lives were sliced up, slowed down by the process of writing, a little like pieces of film in the cutting room, each a slice of life, but not yet connected up to run in real time. Hearing her talk about these ‘living people’ really made me feel that something had been created on those static sheets of paper, and that the pieces in the cutting room were glimpses into real lives.

Originally the book was called Six Days, this being the period of the quest. Coffee Maestro is the name of the coffee shop in which much of the book is set, it’s also a possible title that could be bestowed on one of the characters. I toyed with the title ‘Sip by Sip’ What do you think.