For years I’d considered writing a book but somehow the idea, the hook never really came to me. The saying ‘write about what you know’ was burned into my brain and I, certainly for the last nine years had pretty much been focussed on having children and family life and trying to navigate a career somewhere in between. I was so tied up in that, that it was the last thing I wanted to write about.
I’ve always been about escapism. That’s why I love cinema and the books I read so much. I want to be taken somewhere else. Somewhere far away and forget myself for a couple of hours. That’s where the magic is for me.
As it happened the spark of an idea struck me when I wasn’t looking for it and writing had slipped down the list of wanton pursuits. I woke up one morning out of a dream, you know the ones that you are completely wrapped up in right up until the moment you open your eyes. One that is so vivid and crystal sharp that you just want to hold on to it and linger in it a little longer. It wasn’t the best dream I’d ever had but there was something about it – a power it had.
Now, I’m a massive fan of The Walking Dead, I love it but in the early days of watching the show I’d try not to watch it at night as I have a delicate brain and I would end up running away from zombies in my sleep. You know, the really ripe ones with limbs and flesh hanging off – not good. So this dream was a zombie dream but in it the girl being attacked was immune to their hacking jaws. She and her male companion were invincible and they laid waste to them with ease. Now my book is not a zombie one (boo!) but I found myself thinking about the people in that dream, who they were, where they came from, how they got there.
And the seed was sewn. After that I couldn’t stop thinking about them and I imagined lives for them both and the bones of a story began to form. One I had to write down. I started making some notes and googling how the hell to get started. There’s lots of brilliant advice out there but the one thing that stayed with me throughout is to write a book that I would like to read. That if I picked up in a book shop I would happily bury myself in.
And the great thing is you can write about anything! It doesn’t have to be a spark from a random dream – it can be absolutely anything you want. The sky’s the limit. So if you have a seed of an idea, allow yourself the daydream of where that story might go and what sort of lives these characters will have with you at the helm.
I should say at this point where I’m at myself. I finished the first draft last November and am early into the second draft now. While I won’t be divulging what the book is about for now (hey it could all change in the second draft) I will say that it’s set in the 19th century (a notion which was insane to me at the time – so very far removed from anything I know) but it’s been such a brilliant experience digging around in the past.
A friend of mine told me a while back (and he’s in publishing – that makes him very smart on the topic!) that it’s rare for a first novel to get published but that you’ll learn more writing your first that you will any and all future ones. So this one is important, it’s a massive learning curve and this experience is vital – you have to have the doubt, the anguish, the euphoria, the mental torture – it’s all part and parcel of the process.
So once you have that idea, grab on to it and don’t be afraid to try it. Fear is the enemy!