“Who was that on the phone?” My husband asks, popping his head around my office door.
Am I going to admit that I’m conversing, out loud, with characters from the latest book I am writing? Not likely, he might assume that I’m losing my marbles. I cross my fingers behind my back and say, “Nothing for you to worry about, dear, it’s just a girlfriend.”
“Are you sure?” Hubby gives me an old-fashioned look. “You sound a bit het up.”
I shrug, smile brightly, and reassure him.
Upon retirement, I worried about how I would fill the spare hours and days that lay ahead. Ha! What a waste of time that was!
Scribbling since the age of eight, I’ve accumulated quite a few stories but never had the courage or the wherewithal to do anything with them. Perhaps now is the time, I thought. The U3A (University of the Third Age) beckoned, and I joined a creative writing group. After the first class, under the brilliant tutelage of a professor of English, who volunteered his time and expertise to our group of would-be authors, I was hooked. That was more than 20 years ago. Since then I have written and published three books, am editing my fourth and am working more hours each day than I did in any of my paid occupations.
Underpaid? Overworked? You bet – but I don’t care. Never in my life have I had so much fun or run the gamut of so many emotions. Writing takes me any place I want to go and all from the comfortable seat in my home office. Characters are at my fingertips, quite literally, with the aid of my computer keyboard, I can turn them into heroes, comedians, or psychopaths. They can be nasty or nice, rich or poor. I can nurture them or kill them off. Such heady power! Good or evil, these people engage me to such an extent, no wonder I have lengthy and sometimes noisy conversations with them. They colour my life for most of my waking hours and often keep me awake at night.
Work happens in my office, overlooking the garden, which, thanks to my wonderful literary obsession, is not nearly as tidy and cared for as it used to be. Added to all this joy, other indie authors are always available on social media to chat, encourage, and advise. How lucky am I?
After several re-writes, much editing, and lots of proof reading, I send my finished manuscript off to the publisher. After writing ‘The End’, the initial rush of adrenalin soon wears off, leaving me to flounder about like a ship without a rudder. However, when the first box of paperback books arrives, smelling of new paper and printers’ ink, my feeling of abandonment pales into insignificance. Who needs drugs to get high?
Now begins the nightmare of selling the product, and what a jungle it is. I burn the midnight oil because of time differences with contacts on the other side of the world. What the heck – who needs to go to bed? Marketing frustrates, angers and occasionally thrills me. Hand on heart, I can’t say I really understand what a lot of it is about.
Despite all the interruptions of everyday living, I find time to write. The adrenalin rush I experience, each time I finish a chapter, keeps me writing. Characters escape my control and do just as they darned well please, and I want to know where they will take me next.
Overheard snatches of conversation on a bus, watching body language, and observing unusual happenings, provide Ideas for new books. Outings are a hotbed of inspiration and I am never without a notebook to hand. If you see someone scribbling nearby – watch out. You might be the inspiration for a fictitious character in a book.
I store ideas in shoe boxes, each with a title printed on the front. In these gloriously tactile cardboard containers lie newspaper cuttings, photos, memorabilia, maps and old letters. Each one contains the makings of another book. So, what if I don’t turn all this stuff into stories, therein lies a wealth of entertainment to rifle through in years to come.
Am I ever bored? No fear. Do I lie in bed on a Sunday morning with breakfast and the papers? Absolutely not. Often, I am on the road at some ungodly hour on my way to a market or expo. I love engaging with people and sometimes they buy one of my books. I am honoured and thrilled if they ask me to sign their purchase. Sometimes I get a hug from one of my young readers, which is heart-warming.
On a final note I’d like to relate one of my headier moments. Standing in a supermarket queue, a lady dashed up to me and said, “Hey, you are the author of the Oric trilogy, aren’t you? I love your books.”
Fame at last – it doesn’t get much better than that.