Located in a particular place, London and the suburbs of Kent, but rooted in the unspecified ‘here and now’ of its original composition, Hush Hush was scattered with references that would jar with any post-millennium reader.
In 1999, for example, my heroine browsed the newspaper classifieds looking for a job, so now I had her searching online, natch (something else that changes faster than the exchange rate – everyday slang).
As for a soulful scene of ex-lovers gazing at each other through a haze of smoke in the airport departure lounge – gone. And no longer could one character sniff knowingly to another, ‘this is the twentieth century, you know!’
Some things were tweaked to align with prevailing trends, such as an aquamarine bathroom suite swapped for a Champagne-coloured one (I had to consult a few people for that one, since I’m no Kelly Hoppen), while several scenes required rewriting or completely excising. For example, at one point my heroine breaks her Tube journey in order to dash off and look for a phone box to call her mother. The ubiquity of the smartphone now rendered such a scene redundant.
When it came to updating A Tale of Two Sisters the following year (published originally in 2001), I went through a similar process of replacing handwritten letters and the allusive denseness of phone calls with the pointed brevity of texts (incidentally, a text often leaves more scope for reading between the lines than a letter or phone call, as it sometimes fails to convey subtlety in voice or tone) and even swapping Ralph Fiennes for Bradley Cooper!
The times, they are always a-changin’, especially where technology and publishing go hand in cursor. So unless your story is set in a specified, historically accurate period (which could be any time you like, including last week), some of your cultural references will date faster than Katie Price on the rebound – a nod to topicality that will probably elicit ‘who she?’ head scratching in years to come…