I’m so happy to have been asked to join GirlsHeartBooks as one of their guest bloggers for the next few months. What a fabulous place to talk about books and writing – and other things!
So a little bit about me; ‘I’m a writer.’ There, I’ve said it! That tiny sentence is surprisingly hard for me to say out loud; I hope that doesn’t make me sound weird.
Is it because being published still new to me? ‘Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero’ was only released last June by Walker Books. Maybe it’s all still sinking in…. but I don’t think it’s the newness that’s makes it hard. It’s the oldness. That doesn’t sound like a proper word, but you know what I mean.
Oldness – because I actually started writing the book about ten years before it was published, just after I’d had my baby daughter. But I dreamt about being a writer long before that. I didn’t just really want to write, I even dreamt about where I’d write (in a gypsy caravan in case you’re wondering, and no, I haven’t got one, although I did live in a railway carriage for a while.)
Ten years is a long time, longer than some of you have been alive! One of the reasons it took so long was because I was working full-time so I had to write in all those little scraps of leftover time; in the evenings, on the train to work, waiting for the spuds to bake. Then I had to rewrite the book several times to make sure I had the plot exactly right. Once that was done actually publishing a book also takes a long time, with designers and illustrators, editors, typesetters, proof readers; all working together to make the book as wonderful as it can be. That bit alone took over a year.
So writing a book is one of my oldest dreams and like all things you’ve had the longest, it’s the most precious, like a favourite teddy that might be bald and moth-eaten but you’d never, ever throw it away. And because it was precious I was very careful about who I showed the dream to, so I didn’t tell very many people I was even trying to write. I felt too shy to admit it.And if I’m honest, I had self doubts. The dream of being a writer sometimes seemed too impossible, too big, too out of reach, too…. well…. too dream-ish. I worked in a library (I still work there) and every week I saw wonderful new books being published; heaps of them, all shiny with silver fonts, foil edges, and crisp covers. I felt like a salmon trying to swim up a river of glittering writing.
But although I had, and still have moments, when I think my writing isn’t good enough, I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else as much as I want to write. And when you first hold your newly printed book in your hands, and give it a good sniff (yes, you have to; it’s like a rule) it’s one of those rare, fist-bitingly joyous moments when you really think you’ll burst with happiness. So even if I have doubts, and even though writing can be long hours, I adore making up stories, and I always will.
So the dream has come true – and yet it’s also changed; once I’ve finished the sequel to Fenn Halflin, (‘Fenn Halflin and the Seaborn’ due out in Summer 2017) I want to write other books. Sometimes half-formed characters I haven’t written yet, wake me up in the middle of the night as if to say ‘Hey! What are you waiting for?’ ‘A plot,’ I answer, ‘and a pen and paper’. As every writer knows, you have your best ideas when you have nothing to write with. In desperation I’ve written on my arm with an eye-liner; necessity is the mother of invention they say.
I don’t know if all dreams feel like this, I only know how my dream has made me feel; nervous, excited, shy and joyful. During visits to schools and festivals, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many children who love stories and some who love writing them too, and I really hope they can all follow their dreams. I know it’s a bit late for ‘Happy New Years’, but if you are dreaming of becoming a writer (or dreaming of anything you really, desperately want), if you’re hiding your dream or shouting it from the rooftops – whatever sort of dreamer you are – I hope it comes true in 2017 – or maybe 2027. Some dreams don’t have a Best-Before date.