Many writers’ stories about how the craft became their vocation begin at a young age. And not only writers – it seems common for creatives to have a passion for their chosen medium from childhood. You could be forgiven for thinking that creativity is something innate, something you are born with.
It’s certainly something I believed. As a young man, I was definitely not a creative. Creativity was for other people – the kids who got cast in the school play or played violin or had their art exhibited on classroom walls. This is not a sob story bemoaning unsupportive adults – it simply reflects where my interests lay at the time. I gave up all arts subjects at the earliest opportunity. I did my degree in Maths. After that, due to an absence of imagination, I began training to become a lawyer.
Despite my lack of creative pedigree, for some reason I always believed I could write a book. Thankfully for readers, I did not pursue this idea until years later. My literary attention at the time was focused towards the grim antiheroes of Banks and Welsh and the carousing ne’er-do-wells of Thompson and Bukowski. My soft upbringing in rural Gloucestershire would not have lent itself to imitation of such exalted, inebriated company.
Fortunately, I instead in my early twenties discovered fantasy. What I love about the fantasy genre, although it is present elsewhere, is the combination of the macro and the micro – the vast, earth-shattering conflicts told through the close, personal dramas of those swept up in them. It seems a true reflection of the human condition through history – individuals ever at the mercy of political and economic forces beyond our control, trying to fight against the tide.
With my first novel, The Fury of Kings, I seek to follow this tradition. It’s a paean to the greats of the genre, a thousand floors above me in the tower of prose. It began in 2015, throwing down a few hundred words through sheer boredom while temporarily working in a bank dealing with undeliverable mail. I soon discovered that the skills I applied in maths and law – logic, concision, clarity – were equally applicable to writing fiction, but also that there was no right answer, that it could be whatever I wanted it to be. It proved to be a freeing realisation. Writing a book is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.
On my journey to becoming a published writer, I have reached the conclusion that writers are not born – they are made, chipped away by long spans spent hunched over a keyboard. Anybody with the will to do so (and the support of their loved ones; making time to write does sometimes require selfish decisions) can write a book. The act of creativity is a function of time – some people will take longer than others, but everyone has to put the hours in.
The Fury of Kings: A gripping fantasy adventure (The Erland Saga Book 1), published by Second Sky, is out on 17 May.