I started my first proposal for Heritage on 6. January 2000 - take note that’s a good 33 months before it was published. The majority of that time was waiting for the proposal to be read, and for the BBC to get back to me. It’s a long process, but one that they don’t let newbies put themselves through any more.
The first thing I wrote for the story was the funeral at the end, and that pre-dated the first proposal by a good six months as I tried to work out the story that led up to it. In the end, that was one of the few parts that barely changed.
The original idea came from an article in the Daily Mirror panicking that some evil dictator would clone themselves an unstoppable army, and also an interview with Bonnie Langford on Esther talking about . . . well how much she’d been hated in her work over the years, her time as Mel on Doctor Who being no exception. It was also based fairly comprehensively on my favourite western of all time, Bad Day at Black Rock. In the final version, additions like Ace’s sub-plots and other things made the book more original, but in this version the inspiration shows through clearest.
Justin Richards wrote with his thoughts on the proposal on 12 March 2001. On 14 March, I sat down and redrafted the proposal, taking into account Justin’s comments and adding a few new ideas of my own. This second proposal was left it to ferment for a while, before sending it to some friends for their thoughts. The best advice came from my friend Kelly, who pointed out that just because it was a synopsis, that was no excuse for the damn thing being so dull to read. I put the eventual commission down to this very sound advice. I started reworking a third draft on 9 April 2001.
It was third time lucky, and BBC Worldwide officially accepted the proposal on 7 September 2001. They gave me a deadline of 4 March 2002 to get the completed manuscript to them, with a preliminary publication date of September 2002. I wrote back immediately to accept, and on 3 October 2001 I got the contract to sign.
The manuscript was emailed to the BBC in February 2002, and that is pretty much what you get in the final version of Heritage: the only major change was trimming the beginning section, which Justin rightly thought was over-written.