17. Work it, baby!

As a kid I spent hours and hours on my own. Whether it was designing my own comics or football newspapers, playing the 70s football phenomenon Subbuteo against myself (which cuts out the need to cheat because you can’t fool yourself) or even inventing my own games.

It wasn’t like I was a loner who didn’t have any friends, either. It’s just that I was extremely happy keeping my own company.

What I didn’t do, though, was read. At least, not until I was into my teens.

All that changed, however, when one drab summer holiday afternoon I was mooning about the house like a typical teenager – all my mates otherwise occupied on family vacations – complaining: “I’m bored!”

Mum came out with all the usual things that mothers say. “Why don’t you tidy your room then?”, “Go and sit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine”, “Why don’t you read a book?”

Hang on a minute! What sort of teenager do you think I am? Reading books is just for swots, I thought.

“Here, read this one and if you tell me you didn’t enjoy it I’ll never suggest you read a book again,” said mum, tossing me a dog-eared paperback.

The novel was by Ira Levin and was called A Kiss Before Dying. For an author who can boast Rosemary’s Baby and Boys From Brazil among his back catalogue it’s probably one of Ira’s lesser known pieces of work.

Still, I can assure you that after a few minutes I was hooked. His writing was energised and exciting, his flawed main character a fantastic villain and the twists came from nowhere, leaving you open mouthed at the sheer audacity of the idea.

At the end of it all I had made a conscious decision – I wanted to be an author.

Forty years later and I am still waiting – but at least I’m a long way down the road to becoming one. I’ve made the decision to publish my novel Crossing the Whitewash in early July – two months before the Rugby World Cup.

Having decided it was about time I started acting like a writer, too, I attended the London Book Fair 2015 last week at Olympia in Kensington.

The thing was massive, the whole publishing industry represented under one roof in a building where you could probably base what remains of the British Armed Forces, including their tanks and planes, and still have room to spare.

I digress, though. In the past LBF – which used to be housed at Earls Court – was strictly for the professionals, agents and publishers getting together to do rights deals worth millions with only represented authors feeling any benefit.

Over the last few years, though, the rise of eBooks has heralded the era of the Independent Author and the change has been, quite simply, phenomenal.

I saw LBF as a great chance to network and, using my journalist’s hat to gain entry I was astounded by the sheer amount of new self-published or self-publishing writers gathered around Authors HQ. For my report on the event and the views of my fellow authors Ian Sutherland and Clare Flynn, you can read my piece on News Hub.

But the point of this blog post is to show how this widely diverse group pool their resources and their knowledge.

You might think that those who are successful would jealously guard their secrets – like the cricketer Geoff Boycott used to do when he worked out how to play a particularly tricky spin bowler. But the people I’ve met since making my declaration “I am an Author” have been hugely helpful.

I’m not sure if I would have continued with my project if I hadn’t been given the immense encouragement and guidance I have received.

I have joined three groups now – ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors), the London Writers’ Cafe Meet-up Group and Byte the Book, an organisation that help bring writers together with useful contacts in the industry such as agents, publishers, marketing people and journalists.

The buzz word is networking and though I used to be happy on my own, crouching over my carefully crafted prose like some schoolboy protecting his knowledge from cheats, I’ve now discovered that it’s fine to share and share alike.

That’s why I’ve been happy in my small way to publicise some of my fellow writers work, because though we write independently the truth is we’re all in this together.

With this in mind, while trying to keep up with the demands of the day job I am going to try to write a piece a week about the Indie Author phenomenon for the News Hub, speaking to those who have been successful or have a story to tell. You may also learn some trade secrets.

  • What was the first book you read and what sort of impact did it have on you? Feel free to post a comment here

2 thoughts on “17. Work it, baby!

  1. Welcome to ALLi – it’s a great group. Hopefully you’ve already found your way to the members only Facebook page. The first books I read that I remember – Trixie Belden series when I was a kid. Then in my teens, I discovered the Angelique books – couldn’t get enough of them. It’s been a wonderful reading journey and I agree with Stephen King when he says that if you don’t have time to read you can’t really hope to write.

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