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I am a writer

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Writing is about realising dreams – my dream of being a writer, my dream world, and also the dreams of other people reflected through characters.

I’ve always been a writer in one form or another – I was an avid “let’s pretend” player in my youth and loved to make up stories. As a child, being a writer was my career choice (once I’d grown out of the idea that I wanted to be a cuckoo clock!). It was only later that I came to understand the need to earn an income and that writing was unlikely to do that unless I was very, very lucky. I must confess that it never crossed my mind that I’d also need to be very, very, talented – that I was good at writing was a given! Despite the harsh realities of the real world, the dream remains. I know that to be a writer is still what I want – the thing I am here to do, if you will – and that was what drives me to continue to write around the edges of making a living.

Looking back, there wasn’t one pivotal moment when I realised that my purpose was to write – there seem to have been several. When I first started writing, it was prompted by a challenge from a friend. I was an habitual day-dreamer – story-telling in my imagination whenever I could and to fill a dull moment. On explaining this to my friend, who was concerned that I was cutting myself off from the real world, I remember saying, “it’s not so different from writing a novel is it?” and her retort was, “well, try writing a novel and find out.” That got me putting my daydreams down on the page.

At first I wrote fan-fiction – using the characters from a TV series or a book created by someone else and expanding on this. It is still a field I dabble in, purely for my own pleasure and to keep my writing skills up to snuff when I’m not actively working on the Bremmand Chronicles. I wrote to be creative and to capture the dream-world that was running about in my mind.

The second pivotal point came when my partner, tiring of my constant writing for (to his eyes) no real purpose, expressed the view that I’d never make anything of my writing; so why bother? That made me turn away from fan-fiction (which, at the time, was not a medium that I could expect to be published because of the copyright issues it presented) and to start working on my own original works – the Bremmand Chronicles.

When I finished the first draft of the first book, I started to seek publication via traditional routes. I don’t know how many 50 page samples I sent to how many literary agents but I know it cost a fortune and was a very dispiriting process. To get a response of any kind was rare and, in most cases, terse. I did get a couple of “it is well written,” rejections and one where it sounded like it had been quite a close run thing (but still a rejection). The struggle to get published is a harsh one and I was losing heart.

That was when pivotal moment number three arrived with an unwelcome blast into my life. It started with pain, it became a lump and, on my 39th birthday it was a diagnosis of breast cancer.

There is a reason things like this are called “life changing events” because it was certainly that. Everything changed. I spent six months being cut about, poisoned and irradiated to battle the cancer and years after that regaining the mental confidence in my own body after it had so brutally betrayed me. As my health issues began to come under control, my relationship started to decay. Unhappy at home, I retreated into work and into my writing. Neither of these were destined to improve matters and, in the end, my partner and I agreed to go our separate ways.

The principle of “life is too short” came to the forefront during all this turmoil and, in the first year after my treatment ended, I went to quite a few places I’d always wanted to see: Hadrian’s Wall, Egypt and Pompeii all felt my footfall. At the same time I decided that I was no longer prepared to tarry and take a gamble with finding an agent or a publisher. Guided by a friend who works in publishing (not in fiction, unfortunately) I found one of the early self-publishing on-demand sites and, with the help of my father who was my editor for my first three books (I can still remember his amazed excitement when he read the first book and realised I could actually write – that was a pretty special feeling) The Line of Duty was published in April 2006.

It was a start and it set me on the journey that allowed me to say, with a book as evidence, “I am a writer.”

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