Thanks to the Reading Ape for this opportunity to join such illustrious company and thanks to you, readers, for accepting my invasion.
I’ve always been a reader, for as long as I can remember. As a child I loved books (I loved toys and dolls too, but those were superseded very early on by books) to the point where my mother would tell people, if they asked about presents: ‘Oh, just buy her a book. She’s always happy with a book.’ Although I don’t recall going to the library very often, at school, and with quite a few of my female friends we had an informal library.
We would borrow each other’s books and that way we managed to read through quite a few of the Young Adult series of the time (novelas juveniles in Spain), although we soon moved to standard novels, and even reality-based books (I’ll always remember the book about the plane that fell in Los Andes and they survived ‘Viven’…Yes, that one. I think we were 13 or 14 then).
A few of us also started writing, and of course we wrote each other into the stories, and if we were upset because of something the other one had done, the character would pay for it. Oh, the adventures!
We wrote in individual sheets of paper (well, we ripped them off notebooks) and we exchanged them among ourselves, although they were read by most of the class. I remember one of the teachers confiscated one of the meandering pages, one penned by my friend Roser, but he read it quietly, and gave it back to her.
I’m afraid I don’t have any of those stories any longer (although I must confess to still remembering some of the plots. And no, I’m not telling you, who knows?) and I haven’t seen my friend Roser, who is still in Spain although no longer in Barcelona, for years. (I heard she was Mayor of a town a few years back, but not sure now.) But I never stopped writing.
There have been periods of my life when I’ve been far too busy to write regularly (Medical School didn’t leave me much time, but I tried and catch up in the summer) but I’d still write when I had a chance.
I started reading in English when my friend Silvia (and I’m still in touch with this one) suggested it was a good way to practice English.
John Irving and Stephen King were the authors I first read in English (I had read both of them in translation already) and my friend was right. No better way to increase your vocabulary than read in that language, even if it can be a pretty slow process and you have to do it with a dictionary by your side (and it has just suddenly occurred to me that with e-readers and dictionaries incorporated that could be far less painful).
When did I start writing in English? Apart from things related to my work (letters, admission and discharge summaries, those kinds of things), I guess it was on the year when I was waiting to go back to university to study American Literature (University of Sussex, great place), and I took a creative writing evening course locally.
That was also when I started using a computer and Word to write, rather than longhand or a conventional typewriter (never made it to the electrical one. I remember quite a few years earlier my mother suggested she might buy me one but I told her I thought computers would be the future. At least I was right on that.). And at first I wrote short-stories. I still do every so often, but soon I embarked on longer things. Some I would finish; some I would write on until another idea would become more pressing and demand my attention.
Did I write with the idea of publishing? I always dreamt that at some point in the future, perhaps when I retired, I’d choose a book I thought more deserving than the others, polish it, and start sending it around. But I always preferred to carry on writing rather than dedicating my efforts to trying to publish something.
Did I share my stories? I did at that course, and in one of the courses I attended at Mount Holyoke College, where I went for my year abroad. I showed one of my stories to Professor Stephen Fender, who did my admission interview at Sussex. He laughed at the story and told me that I could write.
I shared some of my other stories with some of the other tutors including the author running the short story writing course at Mount Holyoke (now one of them, ‘Cannon Fodder’, is one of the stories in ‘Escaping Psychiatry’).
After that I was quite busy with my PhD about the Films of David Mamet and I mostly wrote the dissertation (and of course, I went over the number of words… I’m not ideally suited to flash fiction). And then I went back to psychiatry, and then… But I never stopped writing. I suspect that when all is said and done, I was writing more then, than I am now as I just simply wrote, and didn’t worry about talking about writing, publishing, promotions, sales…
In an ideal world, I would write, I would carry on with my blog, read and do reviews, and I would quite happily talk to other writers and to the readers (wherever they are and whomever they might be), if they wanted to talk to me, of course. And yes, I’d do some translations. Even though they can be hard work, I enjoy the process. All the rest…
I have the nagging feeling that people who don’t know me and read my biography or something about me, become convinced that because I’m a doctor, a psychiatrist, have a BA and PhD in American Literature and an MSc in Criminology I must write very deep and heavy books, and very boring stuff. Well, they’re wrong. I might be boring, but my books aren’t.
I won’t give advice other than, whatever you do, don’t do what I do. As Archangel Michael advises my character Pink, in my new YA series ‘Angelic Business’ (sorry, there had to be some marketing): ‘Be Yourself.’ And: ‘You’ll know what to do when the time comes.’ If only…
Thanks so much for having me.
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