‘Write what you know’. It’s well-known advice but, actually, I think you can’t help but write what you know. That’s hardly a revelation; it’s a popular notion that a writer’s politics, experiences, agendas etc will always infiltrate their writing no matter how hard they try to stamp them out. I’ve been in a reflective mood recently, and I’ve been thinking about how my personal circumstances have affected my own writing.
I’ve been in a reflective mood because, last year, I suffered a relapse of my illness and have been spending a lot of time resting/thinking. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have it easier than a lot of other sufferers (I can write every day and manage low exertions) but, sadly, my illness still defines what I can cope with during my day to day life. Leaving my little village is always a struggle, sometimes even leaving the house.
Looking back, I can see that this frustration underpins nearly all of my stories, narratively, thematically, everything-ly. In the Tethers trilogy (my first book series) Karl and Esther complain about being stranded in their home village of Shraye. To them village life is so tedious that, as soon as an excuse to leave arises, they do so, regardless of any obstacles or dangers they might encounter. Some readers have had a problem with the logic of their decision but, given my own personal experience, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to me.
In Wye (my fourth novel) Wye is travelling from A to B with B being halfway across the country. Travelling so far on foot is arguably a stupid risk to take in the dangerous world that Wye is inhabiting. Once again, however, I’d do it too. Even in my current WIP Seren Temples is running away from her home planet, seeking out the deepest, most remote part of the solar system.
As soon as I write something substantial (in terms of word count) I don’t think I can help but let my personal frustrations and wants seep into the text. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing either. In a way I’m living out adventures through my characters. It’s just happening in my imagination, in my head rather than in reality. Despite being near-housebound for large chunks of the last few years I’ve sailed along Victorian coastlines, sliced through hordes of zombies and dodged bullets in zero-G. The ever-quotable Albus Dumbledore has something to say about the legitimacy of such experiences:
I think ‘head experiences’ are real/legitimate as well. Beneficial too. Recently, I’ve come to realise that writing is a kind of therapy for me, not just a career choice. By allowing me to have adventures and explore worlds beyond my village I think my characters help me just as much as medicine and medical advice does. In fact, I think I’d be lost without them!
What do you think? Perhaps you find a different activity therapeutic (I get similar benefits from reading). Let me know in the comments section!
August 2, 20164 Comments
Earlier this year I recorded a vlog in which I introduced my upcoming novel, Anchor Leg. Well, the novel is progressing nicely (I’m just entering the editing phase) so I thought it was high-time for another update. Click below to watch me reading from Anchor Leg‘s first chapter.
Let me know what you thought in the comments section, more vlog updates coming soon!
You can view my YouTube channel by clicking here.
June 9, 2016Leave a comment
I’m pleased to report that my short story Old Monastery Pool has placed third in the 2016 Fishing Magic Writing Competition! A huge thanks to Fishing Magic, the panel of judges and congratulations to Altamash Kabir and Ian Nesbitt who placed first and second respectively. This is my second writing-related prize, the first being Best Short Story at the 2014 eFestival of Words.
Old Monastery Pool is a spooky tale of curses, giant fish and haunted watersides. It’s based on local folklore and you can read it by clicking here.
June 7, 2016Leave a comment
In Sharon Sant’s novel Storm Child, thirteen-year-old Annie has a big problem. Her baby sister is a witch in an alternate Victorian society that does not look kindly upon such magical beings. Worse still, Annie lives in the care of Ernesto Black, a contemptuous man instructed by a ruthless power to find and do who knows what with magical children. Annie has no choice, then, but to leave her baby sister somewhere she’ll be safe. And this tearful goodbye is how the book opens.
Annie is not the only one living under the iron rule of Ernesto, however. Polly and Isaac, a pair of former street urchins, are also present. Polly (perhaps the book’s most excellent character) is under strict instruction to wheedle out where Annie took the baby, using a blossoming friendship as cover for doing so. The first half of the book is a masterstroke of shady motives, suspicion and Don’t trust him/her! moments, the perfect set up for learning all we need to know about the characters. The second half sees magic move more into the fray, with a wonderful action-packed climax and lots of juicy revelations.
Sant’s knowledge of the Victorian era is breathtaking. The characters feel so real (thanks in no small part to perfect use of slang in dialogue) and the world building is effortless. The plight of being a young person growing up in such a ruthless and unfair time is beautifully transmitted and the magic on show is subtle and well thought out. In short, a fine Victorian fantasy romp!
April 21, 2016Leave a comment