By the time I started writing stories my peers had already accepted that I was not of the norm. I was ten. I lived in a northern town full of mills and factories and when mentioning a desire to go to university my mother responded with ‘you have to be very clever to that.’ As it happened, I did end up at university, as did several of my peers. As a ten year old I preferred to read books in the playground and spend my free time writing. My (still) best friend and I would create radio stations and pop bands, writing annuals and magazine and song lyrics on our Saturdays, in between trips to the library to borrow Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams books.
At secondary school, I would write stories for my friends and include them as characters. By the age of fourteen, I’d planned out and handwritten the first 100 pages of a book, had been indulged by my rather wonderful English teacher and was determined to be published by the age of 21.
Unfortunately, university and a degree in analyzing other people’s writing put me off my own. In fact, after graduating, I managed a good three years of reading nothing but crime fiction, as it was one genre I avoided pulling to pieces in an essay. Fanfiction found me and I discovered not only writing again, but other people who also had voices in their heads but didn’t necessarily need medicating.
This was somewhat of a revelation.
An online writers’ circle encouraged me to finish my first original novel, may it Rest in Peace, and several 100,000 word fanfiction stories, each becoming – in my opinion anyway – better. Then of course, real life interfered again and I wasn’t settled enough to use my imagination, especially as my own life was a little like a soap opera at that point anyway.
Twitter became my outlet of choice and I found other crime writers all of whom were snatching moments of time to compose stories, kill off characters and figure out the finer, scientific details without becoming a medical textbook. At last! I had found a group of peers where I didn’t stick out like an arm on a beach from a washed away corpse. I wasn’t a freak! Well, that’s still up for debate…
Just before New Year I met with Mel Sherratt, best selling author of Taunting the Dead and the Estate series. Mel lives not far from the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke, one of my places of pilgrimage, and we had a lovely lunch, talking about our characters as if they were real; how we develop plot and character; where ideas come from… The sorts of snippets of conversation 140 words on Twitter can tease you with were developed into agood old chat that ended up reigniting my flame for writing after a very consuming NaNoWriMo. Mel also gave me a couple of pointers on self-publishing, things I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of. Hopefully I was of some use to her, even if it was as a future victim in a novel!
All writers have people inside their minds and stories that come from nowhere. Crime writers may have what could be considered slightly more gruesome imaginations. After all, we don’t just give birth to our characters, we kill them too. Friends, upon informing them of what sort of tales I write, generally respond with ‘I’d better stay on your good side then’, which is sometimes almost upsetting. I struggle to kill a fly in real life; I save mice from my cats and I’ve even learnt to let woodlice live! If I didn’t like bacon so much I’d be vegetarian, but I can cope up with some strange and, let’s face it, ghastly, ways to die.
So meeting up with Mel was somewhat of a revelation. Here was someone who understood that just because I could come up with these, let’s call them ‘events’, it doesn’t mean that I am any ‘odder’ than your average person. And I went home feeling invigorated. Talking to someone else who loves their craft made me remember my own passion for telling stories, because occasionally, we do need reminding of it.
I’m not yet published; I’m planning to self publish ‘We Were Never Alone’ at the end of May this year, so I’m not entirely sure what right I have in doing this, but I’d like to set up a few dates where writers – not just crime, whether published or not, can get together and have our Twitter conversations in real life, over a nice bite to eat. I know there are many writers’ groups, but this isn’t one where we read each others stuff, just to have a chat, whinge, moan, wax lyrical about a new character or talk about shoes or football. A get together where if you get your notebook or tablet out in the playground that is the pub/restaurant, you won’t be that weird kid with the strange imagination!
If you’re interested, let me know either via this blog or @writerannie on Twitter