Today on the blog, I am thrilled to share a guest post from Hilton Pashley, the author of the wonderful Michael’s Spear. I really enjoyed this book, and you can find my review in today’s other post. Suffice to say that I definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys an adventurous middle grade novel, and it poses some interesting questons about redemption. After all, there’s not many books where you find Lucifer as one of the good guys!
Anyway, it’s over to Hilton, who’s written a fantastic post about the life of a writer – sometimes solitary, yes, but with its own unique rewards.
‘Lonely, but not alone.’
The life of a writer can be a tad lonely at times; after all, it’s just you, your keyboard, and the indescribable weight of a blank page in Microsoft Word. The beginning of a novel is often the worst part for me, I’m not very good at them; it feels an almost Sisyphean task to get that narrative boulder rolling up that hill, hoping that it doesn’t roll backwards and flatten you in the process.
Prior to starting a novel I tend to write lots of messy notes – most of which I later ignore – and try to build up a head of steam before sitting down and banging out a first draft over the space of a couple of months. I’ve tried planning things out, but for some reason that process doesn’t work for me. In fact, the most useful piece of advice I was ever given was to know how the story ends. At first I didn’t get it, but after painting myself into a series of narrative corners with my first novel, Gabriel’s Clock, I realised that as long as you know where you want to end up, it doesn’t matter what detours the story takes you on as you’ll still end up at the right place.
I’ve also learned that sharing too much of a concept early on can sometimes be a bad thing. It’s human nature to takes the opinions of others to heart, and this can end up with you doubting yourself and that boulder grinding to a halt. However, there are counters to the solitude of the scribbler. The characters one builds become imaginary friends, and while hunched over a steaming keyboard they blather on to you about their loves and hates, hopes and fears. It’s probably good that the public don’t get to see that bit, lest they call the emergency services.
Then, we have the professional contacts such as agent and editor, who in my case have become friends too. You build close bonds when working on creative projects, and the feeling on sending in a new manuscript is akin to handing in an essay at school and hoping you don’t get a “Must try harder” comment in the margin.
Then one also gets feedback from fans, which is possibly the most fulfilling thing of all. Your baby is out in the world, and children (and adults) are sending you messages from all corners of the globe about their favourite bits, which characters they like the most and why, and what they want to see more of. It makes the slog of hammering out the words worthwhile.
And finally, every now and then, you get a surreal experience that you can tell the grandkids. For me, my favourite is from my first public engagement just after Gabriel’s Clock – the first of the Hobbes End trilogy – was published. I was speaking at the Hostry Festival in Norwich, and sharing a platform with authors Rose Tremain, Andrew Cowan and Louis de Bernieres. I spent most of the time being star struck and trying not to be sick, but when we were signing books at the end, I had to double take when Louis asked if I would sign a copy of Gabriel’s Clock for his children. A simple thing, but lovely for a debut author at the time. It just goes to show, be you author or reader, you’re never alone with a book.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write a guest post for me Hilton – I think we’ve all felt that pressure of a blank word document at some point!
If you want to find out more about Hilton, or the other books in the Hobbes End trilogy, check out his website here.
Michael’s Spear, the final book in the Hobbes End trilogy (although you don’t need to read the others to enjoy this one – I hadn’t!), was released on the 16th November by Dome Press. It’s well worth your time!
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour above!