Sunday, 6 May 2018


Just like everyone else, I’ve been through disagreeable, maybe even dramatic, life-changing moments. Some of these moments have been unique and people say, ‘You should write about it.’ They are probably correct, but I struggle with the timing. At what point should I write my disasters down?

If I begin while I am still entangled in my personal drama, and there have been times when I have tried, my narrative becomes an achingly boring diatribe of self-pity and/or resentment. If I wait until my emotions have calmed down, I tend to lose intensity.

People often ask me what inspires me to write and I come back with all sorts of answers that are true, but the single most important truth is this. I write books I want to read.

I don’t read as much as I would like because it takes an age for me to find a book that holds me. A Town Like Alice, The 39 Steps, The Gathering Storm are all books that interested me from the very first page. I have to work a little harder with Austen and Bronte, but they are worth the effort. But I struggle when it comes to reading and that makes me want to create the sort of book I would want to read.

It’s not necessarily action that holds me. I was enthralled by Alan Bennett’s encounter of visiting his mother in a care home. Nothing happened. I mean literally nothing, but I was totally captivated and so you could say that good writing holds me, but you would be wrong. Thomas Hardy, for instance, leaves me cold. I find Mr Hardy very gloomy and interminably long-winded. After two pages describing Gabriel Oak in Far From the Madding Crowd, he succinctly finishes with “In short he was 27.” I’m happier reading the short version. But I know I must be wrong about him because he is enduringly popular with people whose opinion I respect.

Things really happen in Agatha Christie. Intrigue is usually there from the very beginning, but I don’t get on with her either. That’s nothing against Ms Christie. It’s me. Whatever it is that takes my imagination is not found among her pages, although I enjoy watching her stories brought to life on the television. I can’t put my finger on what catches me, but I enjoy the stories I write.

I’ve written for Infants, for 8-12 year-olds and YA. Now I’m writing a book for adults to read. My current manuscript is about something that has happened to me. I’ve only edited it a couple of times so far – there is a very long way to go – but think I have a handle on how to make it interesting by using invented characters within the true events.

It seems to me that successful writers settle on one age-group and stick to it. We can all think of exceptions, and they are usually very, very talented. I’d never put myself in that category, but, unlike most writers, I cannot keep to one age-group.

What is wrong with me? I long to read, but struggle to find a book that captivates me. I long to write, but cannot settle on one age-group. I can’t even settle on one genre.

I suppose I’m more creative than business-like and will continue to meander through my writing career for the joy of it rather than commercial success. The money is always welcome, of course, but, for me, the greatest reward is the excitement of writing something I know I can enjoy reading.

It’s a wonderful bonus if others enjoy it too.

1 comment:

Hilary Hawkes said...

Maybe you're what I call an explorer reader - meaning someone who likes to discover and read all sorts of genres, lengths, different authors etc.
From personal experience I would wait a while if you're considering writing a kind of "issue" book based on your own experience of a life challenge ie the kind of book you hope will inspire and support others. Wait until you've reached the other side and become wise with all sorts of insights and inner strengths :)
Writing because you enjoy the creative process seems important and even essential to me. As you say, royalties and payments can be seen as a bonus - and if readers enjoy your books too then I would keep doing what you're doing.