How it all Started

The urge to write or create something lasting, that will thrill or otherwise benefit others has always given me the tingles. As a child, it fascinated me just how much stories did that. In fact, growing up in Jamaican, back when power-outages were regular, storytelling by candlelight left you cowering under the sheets or giggling at clever Anansi’s antics and Bigboy’s bad-behaviour.

It was probably inevitable that, after a decade in programming computers, I felt somewhat unfulfilled. A friend invited me to Spain where I sat on the beach and found myself inventing characters from fellow sunseekers around me. The beginnings of a story hatched, and I dared myself grow it into a book, just to see whether I had it in me.

Someone will like it . . .

Thus, my writing career started and might have ended as swiftly, if not for the erstwhile Peter Janson-Smith who urged me to continue and seek publication. Peter was then the agent for Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories and, as a favour to a friend who was my colleague at that time, he read gave me feedback on my first novel that made my head spin. He liked it. Yes, he said the writing needed work, but, yes, he’d enjoyed it and saw my potential.

As is my wont, I set to researching. From ‘religion’ to ‘the best way to kiss’, I have always researched everything as I hated to get things wrong or simply not have ‘the knowledge’. Now it was time to find out all I could about writing novels and honing this literary craft, through literature. Pre Internet searches, book libraries were the resource you needed, apart from parting with cash in book sellers and charity shops on the road to gaining the knowledge to fulfil a childhood dream of authoring.

That was my start. Everyone starts somewhere. I have since met many would-be writers who simply refuse to start or having started think to quit. Frustration is part of every art form, wouldn’t you agree? The trick is to be consistent is pursuing your passion, sitting down regularly, and plugging away. Encouragement (or discouragement) can come from anywhere but have faith in yourself conviction to finish what you started because, without exception, everyone starts somewhere. Having started, it is important to understand well that while everyone may not like you work, someone always will. So, who should you write for, really?

Having started, never mind the detours . . .

When the reader for Hodder and Stoughton liked my first-three-chapter-submission and requested the entire manuscript, which she later confessed that she'd taken it on a bus trip just to enjoy it all, she insisted I get published and recommended me to her editor. Headline bought Hodder, editors changed and sadly I had to get back to finding an outlet for my book. A few rejections soon led to me finding another publisher (who wanted the book draft as is) and also getting signed by an eminent London literary agent (who, when they’d met me in their office, confided that they’d thought I was female, and said, no-way should I go with that publisher). My new agent took my draft to the Frankfurt Book Fair and reported that 5 publishers had shown interest in my book (1 Dutch, 1 German, 2 Japanese, and 1 French). Would this have happeneded without making a start? Facing a blank page full of possibilities, starting is not a simple matter, but unless you start, you won’t finish. Writing magazines and talk shows were very helpful but nothing beats meeting with like minds and fellow travellers. Literary festivals are wonderfully inspiring, as are writing courses like the one I eventually took at the University of Chichester and met a cohort of the finest fledgeling writers and sat at the feet of awe-inspiring literary professionals. But then you must sit alone and craft your story, your way, in your own words, for your very own captive audience . . . and be proud that you have started and will continue to start until you are finally finished, ready to share it with the waiting world. Why? Because life is pretty empty without a reason to wake up in the morning and a passion that drives you ever forward, with purpose and direction. Get started. I did.