I used to stand in bookshops…
…as a teenager, then a man in my twenties and thirties and I used to look at the science fiction and fantasy novels and believe I, also, was a writer, when I wasn’t. I couldn’t stand the thought I wasn’t a writer. When I wasn’t. Still then I wouldn’t dare call myself an author. That was a special title, deserved only for those whose books surrounded me, maybe too pretentious for anyone, let alone me. (Which is wrong, but it was a satisfyingly cold-edged ruler by which I could precisely measure the extent of my shortfall).
So I’d be jealous, standing in the bookshop, before the sff titles, telling myself I could do better than them. When I didn’t. And I couldn’t. I’d look between the surnames beginning ‘R’ and ‘T’ and just wish, as airy and pure a wish as winning the lottery or wishing to fly – my name, on a spine, this story in my head about these two mercenaries running from the sins of the past, there, before me. I was Barry’s answer to Walter Mitty.
Then I broke, one day in my early thirties. I couldn’t go on calling myself a writer, when I wasn’t. I gritted my teeth, unable to face being an old man, who, to paraphrase Kev ‘s* words ‘never really tried’. Instead, I would be good enough (no accident of words that) to tell my story so well that other people would read it and they would stand with my mercenaries, see through their eyes and feel what they felt. So I began the research and got to know all the people of my novel a whole lot better, so I could tell their sad story. I am Goran.
Somehow I managed it. I entertained sufficiently the handful of people who could take Snakewood from a Word doc and put it into a bookshop. My goal was only ever that at least one other person ‘got’ the story and went on its journey while thoroughly enjoying it.
Among the many things still beyond me as a writer is the ability to describe how it feels when a dream comes true, and is then exceeded dramatically.
So I’ll stand in a Brighton bookshop in March, thirty eight years after I knew what I wanted to be, and I’ll finally call myself an author. But the one thing that’s different about the dreams I had and the reality that’s coming is that I can now visualise the book, I have its shape, its cover, its ‘typesettedness’ in my hands. Today that cover’s out there, as is an excerpt and the wonderful map. You can find it here at www.fantasy-faction.com.
*Kev, a sleazy character in Ricky Gervais’s Derek, lays his soul bare in the first half of the link, and it’s beautifully done, a moment that I rave about here.
If you think you want to be a writer, don’t do a Kev. Don’t do a me either. I can’t imagine how much better a writer I’d be now if I had some more willpower, more guts, earlier in my life.