It’s difficult to write about yourself. It’s even more difficult to write about yourself in the first person, forgoing the third person trick that many aspiring authors use to make it sound like someone took the time to write their About page for them.
I won’t say I’ve always been passionate about writing, but I will say I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. Passion comes and goes, up and down like a rollercoaster. Sometimes I’m extremely passionate about my writing, I’ll come up with an idea in my dreams and then write without a break, until I find myself going for breakfast when the sun has set. Love is a term that I feel endures. I’ve had periods where I’ve taken breaks from writing, but I would always speak fondly about it and I’ve always returned.
I feel you find a lot of passion in blogs. I’m sure I’ve written many passionate Facebook posts. But writing, to me, is more about dedication, loyalty and commitment. There’s also a certain sense of loneliness, where you invest your time and effort into creating something, with the hope that someone somewhere gets it and acknowledges that, hopefully with a smile.
Who inspires me? Well, I’ll tell you who terrifies me: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
I started reading the latter when I was in my early teens, though I’d unknowingly come across Truckers in primary school. Discworld was my step on from Narnia and Middle Earth. I’d like to think my personality and outlook on life could have evolved quite differently if I’d picked up Raymond E. Feist’s Magician instead of The Colour of Magic. Throughout my early years in secondary school, my best friend and I took it in turns to buy Discworld books and read them. There was something delightful about constructing a ritual around it, like the pleasure of watching a TV show once a week rather than all at once in a binge (something I do all the time now.) Terry Pratchett had such a wonderfully distinct style, something I wrote about in the Irish Independent when he died: Terry Pratchett’s Discworld was the mirror that made sense of life . Why am I saying he’s terrifying? Because my mind boggles when it tries to fathom how to write like that. Such humour, such comment on the world we live in without ever getting preachy. Books that appeal to children as much as adults. He was a terrifying talent.
Neil Gaiman was one of those names I kept hearing, like a writing rock star, but not one of those big names teachers would talk about, he was subversive and he was ours. I say teachers, but I think I only came across Neil Gaiman when I went to college. It wasn’t a change of thinking, more so a change of everything. I was crazy about comic books, but as my time grew shorter, my wallet fattened and my thoughts craved more, I began to look at graphic novels rather than thinner volumes. If you look up graphic novels you’re going to be hit with the names Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman first. Sure there are plenty of other greats (I particularly like Garth Ennis’ Preacher series) but those are three big names you need keep coming across. My introduction to Neil Gaiman was Neverwhere. It was great. I eventually found my way to American Gods and there I was left rather dumb founded again. With Neil Gaiman it’s less the execution that astounds me (it’s excellent, don’t get me wrong!) but it’s the big ideas. Somehow he comes up with these fantastic big ideas and manages to ground them in just enough of the known world that you get sucked in. When I treated myself to the Sandman Omnibus I & II (the large impressive looking sets) I just said “No. Neil Gaiman can just feck off.”
So who inspires me in terms of writers? Raymond E. Feist, Garth Nix, Tom Wolfe, George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien. There are so many others, but those guys dominate the bookshelf I’m staring at.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be a “successful” writer, because I’m so good at getting distracted. I used to play in a band. We were pretty good and were “going places” as they say, but, I didn’t focus completely on the band. Diary of the Wolf was written while that band raged on. It was first published shortly after the band split up, possibly as a sort of “I’m still creative, I’m still valid” move. Realistically, that book wasn’t ready. It was out there and people seemed to like it, but it wasn’t a patch on the 2nd edition. For a while there was a buzz, but that first edition was never something I was truly proud of. Even though I might shy away from the werewolf subject matter in front of the cool kids, I am incredibly proud of the 2nd edition.
Trying to express myself to the world was an issue for a time. I was in a civil service job that was as stifling as it was frustrating. Yes, some manuscripts were printed in that office, but writers need outside stimulation to stop the words on the page from growing stale. I went back to college, did a masters in Creative Digital Media. Suddenly creativity was my job and my masters thesis was an interactive murder mystery book set in the Diary of the Wolf world! Excellent! But then the course ended and that mystery book was soured. I started Pewter Games Studios with two of the lads from college, which was great because we were working on a game that allowed me to flex my narrative muscles, but again it wasn’t enough for me to fully immerse myself in. My focus still wandered because we were doing it part time and it was all going so slow.
Growing older seems to give me more focus. Being diagnosed with MS has certainly forced me to develop more focus. Right now, I still don’t think I’ll “make it” as a writer, because I’m not all about the hustle and grind of promotion. Plus there’s a guitar in the corner of this room that really wants to be played and there are songs that want to be written. Maybe one day I’ll learn to dedicate 90% of myself to being a writer and I’ll be happy and allowed to write for my supper, but, until then I’ll publish books when I can.
I still write every day, by the way, it’s just that these days I spend more time sleeping on buses than using them as my secret office.