Mine and my partner’s polling cards for the local election came through the door the other day. This prompted me to think about what a lot of responsibility this entails, which in turn got me to wondering whether I’m a grown up yet or not.
I certainly do a lot of things that are, on paper, adult. I pay bills, go to work, clean the house on a Thursday. I bargain hunt for the best deal on toilet roll. I call the plumber when the shower leaks and arrange for someone to be in when the new washing machine gets delivered.
I also wrote a book. My debut science fiction novel, Zero, is due to be released in August this year. WOOHOO. (Check out Dagda Publishing’s website for details on how to sign up to their newsletter for further details, as well as information on all their other publications and activities: well worth a look for readers and writers alike).
This is a big milestone. One of my personal biggest, especially since my tutors at university told me that the average amount of time between deciding you want to be a novelist and actually finishing your first novel is around ten years. As with a lot of things they said, I didn’t believe this would apply to me. I completed two degrees, I’d been on courses, I’d discovered things and had realisations. I read like crazy. I was nineteen already! I’d surely get a piffling novel draft done before I was thirty.
But, yeah, here we are ten years on and I’ve only just finished my first book. Ok, so it didn’t actually take the whole of the last ten years to write. I have spent the majority of that time banging my head against doomed projects, thinking about how not to write or big-fat not writing at all.
When it came down to the crunch (oh, the crunch!), writing Zero actually only took four months to draft. Since then I have been, admittedly rather leisurely, editing. Basically, a short ten months after I had the idea for the book, it is almost ready to go to beta-readers. But, whatever the actual process ended up being, my tutors were right when they said ten years. I finished it before I was thirty, but only just.
So I’ve reached a point where I’ve taken my writing further down the road than it’s ever been. I’ve roped together some accountability and written a book, maintained my blog, sought contacts and discussions, researched markets and networked with agents and publishers. Even if it takes me another ten years before I reach the next milestone, I am on my way. But I have also got my head around the notion that there’s plenty more hard work ahead.
All very grown up, right?
Yeah, maybe. But at the core of it all I don’t think I feel any different than when I first went off to uni at age eighteen. Maybe even before then, when I was the super-cool secondary school student spending my lunchtimes in the library, scribbling in my notepad the makings of epic, if doomed, pirate sagas or galaxy-spanning space operas.
At the centre of it all, now as then, I am still drawn to that which is daft, escapist, fun, larger-than-life, speculative, other-worldly. I like a little darkness, don’t get me wrong, but always for edge rather than to shock. I am hopefully better at the technical side of writing these days, but the flavour of my fiction is still the same now as it ever was. It’s Narnia, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
(Zero, for the record, is a novel about space pirates. Read a side-story/teaser here.)
My music tastes, too, have grown and changed since I was younger. I like material ranging from new-age/trance things like Enya and Vibrasphere to EBM/Industrial bands like Grendel to the gothy/alternative electronic Aesthetic Perfection and back again. I’m always keen to discover the next thing to stir my imagination, but even with all this and more on my iPod and Spotify favourites lists, there are still a few staple favourites that I will return to again and again.
This week, for example, I have been listening to a lot of Roxette. I grew up with Roxette. They do what they say on the tin: cheesy harmless European pop that never fails to put me in a good place.
Another old favourite that always resurface are Fleetwood Mac. My parents used to listen to them on long car journeys and they have never left me. I saw them live last year too and it was a great moment. Another milestone.
I have discussed Fleetwood Mac and other music before with fellow writer and blogger Helena Hann-Basquait, who has recently released her memoirs. They are grand collection of social commentary, personal anecdote and masterfully messed-with narration. She knows far more about music than me and writes horror fiction as well to boot. (Anyone who is a fan of creative non-fiction with humour and edge, check out her memoirs on Amazon here or her blog here).
Within these memoirs features the wonderful Penny. Penny is Helena’s niece, counterpart, muse, coffee partner and young tear-away sidekick.
I identify quite a lot with Penny: we have similar names, she likes a lot of music of all weird and wonderful sorts, she’s daft but sincere, oh, and has pink hair and wears stripy socks. Penny is quite a bit younger than me, it has to be said. And technically my hair is red at the moment and not pink. But I’m here to tell Penny that young at heart is young for good, for better or worse.
Don’t ever dye your hair back to its natural colour, Penny! It can be pink forever!
To everyone else I will say something I’m sure we all already know: savour that which pleases you, whatever it be. Surround yourself with it, now and always. Always write what you enjoy.
If you want to get somewhere, (i.e. big, famous, publishing contracts, agents etc) sure, prepare to accept into your life the parts of writing that aren’t so enjoyable: the feedback, the graft and the networking. But make sure at the core of it you are sticking to the genres/formats/flavours/styles that you enjoy the most.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Roxette tracks which really is great fun, and a picture post of me with Helena’s memoirs, for Helena’s Honorary Dilettante Contest
(Side note: I know it looks like I’m naked, but I promise I’m not. Please don’t report me!)