You know I used to be a writer when I was young, still at school and full of imagination. I wrote stories about imaginary countries and even drew maps of them with cities, landscapes and so on. I won a prize for a story about a lion once. Then at some indeterminate point it stopped. Like all kids I suppose I became interested in something else, then grew up and became an adult which is traditionally when imagination stops. Adults don’t really want to know about flying dolphins or how you can mine water from clouds before it rains or why there may be cracks in the air through which you can travel at super speed. They dismiss such conceits as “silly”.
So fast forward decades and I’m writing about other people’s creativity in fanzines where I’m reviewing and commenting while my own muse (or whatever you call it) lies slumbering somewhere in my consciousness. Then one day I read something about the Harry Potter phenomenon of which I had been hitherto ignorant. How can something be so big and I’ve never heard of it? That sounds interesting I thought so I did a large article about it during the course of which I felt obliged to read the books and was surprised by the levels of storytelling. I could never remember children’s books being like that when I was a child.
At the time I knew someone whose wife was a teacher and she recommended Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials books as an alternative, richer sort of children’s book. So I read them and by now found myself sitting in pubs declaring I’m sure I could write something like that. Or to be specific something not like that but my own take on a children’s novel. Maybe something even better than Harry Potter and co…
Initially just for fun I sketched out a plot and told my friend whereupon we developed it over months of soft drinks and coffees. For him I think the process was just something passing- he was much more into music and song writing and then he and his wife had three kids so his spare time was non- existent.
Yet the germ of this idea stuck in my head and I wondered what it would be like to have it published. I had no concept of how possible it was, no knowledge of the publishing world beyond my own amateur fanzine self -publishing experiences and by the way at this point there was no such thing as ebooks or online self -publishing. Yet I was convinced enough by the idea that I decided to do it- to write a full scale novel. That was in 2004. It would take another decade, endless rewrites, endless rejection letters from literary agents and a dedication I never knew I had to get the book finally finished in a state I was happy with. All this time I was also working full time and indeed still am.
I can understand why people give up. You could never make a living as an author nowadays unless you sold millions of books. The freedom of online publishing is both its wonder and its curse because of course there are thousands of books clogging up the web and nobody really knows whether any of them are good or not. Or even that they exist.
So whether it’s Northern tenacity or belief or stupidity I carry on, two novels now published with a third just started. Perhaps they will never be discovered, perhaps I will be long gone before anyone finds them but I will carry on as long as I can. When you have an idea you have to do something with it. It’s also about leaving something tangible behind, some proof you were here and did something creative. Sure, it would be nice for the books to be successful, for film companies to be offering me silly money for the rights but you know I’m not sure that creatively there is any better feeling than finishing a story and knowing that as far as you are concerned it is great! Now to convince everyone else…..
John Connors is the author of `Elemental` and `Living Things` which can be bought from Amazon.