“Write what you know,” they scream at all new authors as they stare at a blank screen or page.
Well I tried. I really did. But I had a huge problem. I know a lot, or, that should be I knew a lot. To be honest I’ve forgotten most of it.
For almost three decades I wrote for clients of all shapes and sizes (and temperaments) for radio, TV, the print media, conference presentations, educational, mayoral speeches and all points in between.
I became an instant expert on such diverse subjects as Shakespeare, car manufacture, crop growing, splitting the atom, climbing ladders, building roads, banking, ocean pollution, geometry – the list is endless. I was one of those nightmare guests at cocktail parties who could rabbit on about anything while making little sense of anything and any in-depth knowledge.
The moment the programme/article was broadcast/published, I quickly forgot everything I’d researched and written and I was off onto the next subject.
However, I have been informed that all that knowledge is still up there, somewhere, nestling among the brain cells. I suspect it would take many hours on a psychiatrist’s couch to find those facts now. My internal filing cabinets are overflowing, and dragging out facts can take hours if not weeks.
And, to make matters worse, I suspect I only have the odd brain cell functioning these days, the rest have gone AWOL and show no signs of returning home.
When I began writing books in 2013, I wrote action adventure series based in Africa. I did as I was told, I knew Africa, I’d lived and worked there for decades. But the world moves on. The days of young couples travelling abroad to work are past, it even hints a little at colonialism. So not PC these days.
The book reading public and taste has changed. My answer was to jump genre again (I began with memoirs) and turn to psychological thrillers, which seem to be the flavour of the year.
I made a wise decision as the first one, A Year in the Life of Leah Brand has outsold my other books since it was published a year ago.
I went travelling for 3 months this year returning just in time for our lockdown and in the peace and quiet I wrote a follow up, A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe, and then, because I was having so much fun, I wrote a third, and A Year in the Life of Deidre Flynn, will be released on September 12th.
I left Africa behind and set the books in a London suburb in an ordinary household. I explored what could become frightening in an everyday situation, scary enough to send my heroine (I am always so cruel to them) spiralling down into madness. Is she going mad or is someone out to hurt her?
Each of the three books can be read as a standalone, but they are best enjoyed in order, as Leah moves to an English seaside town and on to France.
It took me a while to transfer from media prose, if you can call it that, and scriptwriting to novel format. I can no longer think in sound, or only in visuals, but now I needed to ‘show not tell’.
It was easier to scribble – pan across boatyard – cut to fisherman by boat – pull focus to boat behind – cut to long shot out to sea – cut to cargo of fish in hold – dissolve to exterior fish market. It all had to fit with the dialogue. I wrote like this for so long, it was a new experience describing scenes as I penned my early novels.
My biggest thrill now I’m pretending to be retired is the freedom to do what I want. No more clients from hell, no more deadlines, no more writing to a time limit. I am my own boss.
I won’t discuss here the client I work for now. Between you and me, she’s a nightmare. She sets herself impossible deadlines, jumps from writing to marketing – and frankly she’s hopeless at that as she leaps from Facebook, to blog posts, to Instagram and Pinterest with very little idea of what she’s doing.
But she’s having fun and too busy to worry about the remaining brain cell working overtime.
You can connect with her here:
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