PAUL Mendelson was watching hit Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit when he was hit with the idea for his latest novel.

His new book though isn’t a Cold War-set story of a chess prodigy, but rather a romantic-drama about a Scottish author who meets a woman with a striking resemblance to a long-lost love. 

The link to The Queen’s Gambit is in the finer details. In the show, the main character heads to Lexington, Kentucky for a chess tournament – the same city which hosted a group of Scottish schoolchildren of which Mendelson was a part in 1967.  

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In an exclusive chat with the Sunday National, the author and scriptwriter explains how that trip continues to influence him, how Scotland helps fuel his imagination and how this book compares with his other work.

From Glasgow to America

Mendelson was born in Newcastle, to a Scottish father and Geordie mother, but moved to Glasgow when he was 16 years old.

He later moved back to London due to his father’s job, where he still lives today although Scotland still holds a special place in his heart with his daughter having moved back here. 

Today, Mendelson is the Bafta-nominated screenwriter behind hit BBC comedies May to December and My Hero as well as the Martin Clunes cancer drama Losing It.

When it comes to novel writing, he’s not short on experience either having published seven, including two for children aged nine and up.

His latest, The Forever Moment, was inspired by that trip in 1967.

“I stayed with a family over in America and got to know what it was like and when I was watching The Queen’s Gambit I was reminded of that”, he said.

“It made me think, what if I had a relationship over there. So the main character comes back 20 years later while on a book tour and sees a young woman who looks the image of the girl he had a relationship with during this exchange tour he was on who never wrote back to him after a few weeks and it had always tortured him.

“He just starts to wonder, what if and the book proceeds from there although not necessarily in a way you’d expect.

“Seeing someone aged 17 and then aged 39 is difficult because you need to understand how they've changed."

Re-exploring life

Although Mendelson admits that his book naturally “goes a bit further” than what he experienced in the US, re-exploring such a critical part of his life is something he says he enjoyed.

He explained: “When I moved to Glasgow aged 11, I was relatively reserved and in a way this trip I went on sort of changed me. I think their hospitality in America made me think I had more to offer than I thought.

“It was a turning point for me.”

Specifically, he cites his drama teacher (Mr Paterson) at the Glasgow High School as someone who encouraged him to pursue the arts.

Upon moving to Glasgow at such a young age, Mendelson explains he “used his imagination to try and survive”.

“I was in school plays when I first realised I might have a modicum of talent. My teacher really encouraged me and I managed to catch up with him years later. He loved what I wrote and maybe if I hadn’t met him then none of this would have happened or it would have happened in a different way.”

Write about what you know

It might be a cliché but it’s one that has given Mendelson great success down the years – write about what you know.

It’s something he’s done throughout his whole career, whether it’s about a couple on their honeymoon meeting their younger selves or, as he explains, a case he handled while working as a young lawyer, the author’s life has always inspired his work.

“In the book, the main character is a writer so naturally there’s a lot from my own experience about what that’s about.

“Everything is drawn from somewhere.”

The Forever Moment will be published on June 28.