For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an author. Several years ago I decided to follow my dream only to suffer a double setback. A fellow golfer questioned what had I achieved in my life that qualified me to become an author. This, I can tell you, sent my usual low-esteem into a nosedive. I’ve never had much confidence in myself, I’ve always been on the shy side, preferring to sit in the corner and people watch rather than be the life and soul of the party.
So what did I have to offer? When it comes right down to it - zilch. I’m not rich or famous, not a war hero or reality TV star, or someone who has survived against the odds or done something incredible. Not by a long chalk. I’m just plain old me who’s led a pretty ordinary life.
But hey, so what. I’ve got an active imagination and a head brimming with stories that are bursting to get out. So I ignored her and put pen to paper. But my humble efforts were short lived. Setback number two was the start of a very painful condition called Repetitive Strain Injury (known as RSI). This affected my hands, wrists and arms and was caused by doing repetitive actions like typing and shorthand. And as I did both of these actions daily as part of my work as a newspaper reporter I was forced to rest my hands in my spare time. So the writing got torpedoed.
Since retiring last year, the pain has eased so guess what – I’ve started writing again. I have penned a few short stories and just finished my first novel.
I get a lot of inspiration for my stories from dreams. The melody for the famous Beatles' song "Yesterday" came to Paul McCartney in a dream - so maybe I'll dream a bestseller.
In one of my dreams I followed a wolf to a tipi. Inside it was like a circus Big Top and the centre pole was a tree studded with stars. An old indian reached high up in the branches for a star. He wore a feathered headdress that trailed to the ground. Each feather represented a brave or wise deed i.e. he had done it all. He told me you are never too old to reach for the stars. In other words keep challenging yourself. And that’s what I’m doing. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So if anyone reading this has a dream of becoming a novelist, go for it. In fact whatever it is you dream of doing or achieving, give it your best shot.
I dreamt the idea for my ANTics novel several years ago. The idea was red-hot in my head so I immediately jotted down notes and within a few weeks my first draft was finished. But by this time RSI left my hands too sore to continue. So the story sat untouched on my computer for several years. I retired as a journalist in 2011 and because I was not doing shorthand and typing on a daily basis, the pains in my hands/wrists eased. So I turned back to my writing.
I have written stories since I was about eight years old. I was a great fan of British children’s writer Enid Blyton, particularly the Famous Five, Secret Seven and Malory Towers series. My dad bought me a toy typewriter and I would sit hunched over the keyboard, just like a real author, writing novels. I was inspired by Blyton, but I invented my own characters, settings and storylines. My dad created me a book cover, on which I put my name and the title of the book.
Gosh I was so proud. I wrote several books this way but I haven’t got a clue what happened to them…probably gathering dust in the loft of our old house.
Apart from wanting to be an author, I also wanted to be an astronaut, archeologist, air stewardess, superhero, and tennis star. And when I wasn’t banging away on the keys of my toy typewriter, you could find me smashing a tennis ball again the brick end of a block of garages beside my home in Newcastle. For hours on end I perfected my lob, backhand and forehand shots – all the time spinning stories in my head.
The love of writing led me down a career path as a journalist. So when I retired, it wasn’t a surprise that I returned to novel writing. I started off by rejuvenating a few short stories that were sitting on a back boiler and penned a few new ones.
After receiving positive feedback from people who read them, I thought about writing a novel and remembered my ants' story so I delved into my files and voila!
Over the past few months I've rewritten the story, added new scenes, strengthened the characters and polished the plot. Since joining Twitter I have learned so much about the editing process. A big thank you to all the published authors, who must be very busy, but still find the time to pass on great writing/editing and publishing tips to aspiring writers on their websites and blogs. I have lapped up their advice, taken on board what I think works for me and squirreled away the rest in case I need it in the future. And I am still learning…
While writing ANTics, an idea for a sequel popped into my head. In fact it came from the characters themselves. These guys never shut up. They would talk to me anytime, anywhere – and I mean anywhere. I kept a notepad, pencil and torch (US flashlight) by my bed for when I woke up (and I did often) with my head full of Zube talking to Brill or HesitANT, or devious Puggy devising some skullduggery to best the ants. I would duck under the bedclothes, torch in hand, and scribble their conversations/or plot turns down in case I forgot them in the morning. And when daylight came, it was fun but frustrating, trying to decipher my erratic scribbles.
One time I was in my local supermarket when the little rascals started talking. I loved what they said, so I dived behind a display of beans to write it down on my shopping list. After that I carried a notepad and pencil at all times – also a tape recorder in my car because hey, these guys, have no respect for where you are or what you are doing. They babble on regardless. It’s wacky but fun.
If you've got time, you can see some of my short stories for FREE. Visit My Stories page on this website for a link to where you can download them. And for where to find ANTics, click on the ANTics page.
Thanks for reading and don't forget to keep reaching for the stars.