I love words. I love the way I can have a day-dream or nightmare, or imagine an exciting story, then with carefully placed symbols I create the same feelings in you.
My love affair started young, I loved stories being read to me when I was little. So much so, that I hid that I could read for myself because I wanted the stories to continue. When I was seven, my primary school teacher read us a poem about dragonflies, and I was enthralled by how minimal words painted such a clear picture. And so my love for the clean, pared back writing of poetry developed alongside my love of the comforting escapism of prose.
Reading and writing don’t come easily to me, I’m pretty sure I am dyslexic, although I’ve never being diagnosed. But from childhood playing with words has been my greatest pleasure.
I studied creative writing as part of my degree, almost thirty years ago and after graduation writing was always something I was going to do. Tomorrow.
That mythical time when I would have the energy and clarity to sit down and write the perfect novel. I felt I needed to plan it all out, then write a serious literary masterpiece. By setting up such grand plans, with unrealistic expectations on myself, I didn’t write. Well, apart from the occasional secret poem to make sense of my own feelings.
Then, almost ten years ago, life got very tough, and I became really ill. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I couldn’t sleep, I was hallucinating sounds, and seeing shadow people, I vomited frequently without warning, and I started having some very unpleasant thoughts. It was a shocking experience to suddenly not be able to trust my own mind, or body. I was initially very ashamed at what I felt was weakness, but then I realised I had to change how I lived if I was to survive.
I opened up to people and talked about what I was experiencing, and in response, other people opened up to me in return. I learned from them how to get through. One of the most important realisations for me was that I had to allow my creative side to breathe again. So, I scrapped all my grandiose plans and unrealistic targets and just started writing. I didn’t worry about it being perfect, I just wrote what I enjoyed writing, honed that to the best it could be, and hoped other people would enjoy reading it.
Part of the anxiety and depression was lots of terrifying nightmares when I was able to sleep. They were often about vampires. I started writing these scenes, and creating a story around them. Once I did, my characters introduced themselves to me, and quickly developed lives of their own, and very demanding personalities!
It was the planning to do all the plotting and outlining which had become a big hurdle for me. Instead, I started each writing session with an approximate idea where I wanted the story to go, but Rae and Layla would come along and totally take over. They often introduced characters I wasn’t expecting, and took the story off in directions I wasn’t expecting at all, so writing was never boring.
Throughout the creation of my first novel, Darkly Dreaming, I shared every step with my best friend. She was my soul sister, the inspiration for my main character’s mischievous best friend. She brainstormed with, believing in my characters as completely as I did. Our connection was so close that we could slip into this alternate world together to mine the gems that give my characters depth and make the story believable.
She was my cheerleader- absolutely believing in me, and persuading everyone she knew to buy my book. I had just started writing the second novel of the trilogy, when one morning, out of the blue she died of a brain aneurysm. I was bereft. I still am. I always will be.
It has hit my writing hard. How do I write the rest of the trilogy when she will never know what happens? How do I write a character that was originally based on her? How do I write The End on the final page of Book 3, and never write her again?
My grief has turned my words to syrup- slow and sticky and reluctant to leave my fingers, but I persevere. Occasionally I find my flow again, and can lose myself for several thousand words at a time, but most often I am exhausted after only a thousand. I can only apologise to my readers, and promise that it is coming, and then the whole series will be getting a spruce up, and will finally be republished by the wonderful SpellBound Books, who have decided to take a chance on me.