I grew up in a small town in Northern NSW where the only entertainment was stuff you invented yourself. There were the usual stereotypical small town childhood things seen in nostalgic movies everywhere. My life generally revolved around the river (the Gwydir in this case) in one way or another. There were rafts and canoes. Camping. Bikes. And general hanging about. But to tell the truth, I didn’t have a lot of friends so I spent a lot of time alone. And reading and writing are the perfect hobbies to do on your own.
I can’t really remember reading a lot in the way of kids books. And I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read fantasy and science fiction (though it was mainly fantasy at that stage). There were a few, but I read Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 11. Before that it was Eddings and Fiest.
And there was never a time when I wasn’t writing– again, fantasy and science fiction with leanings towards the fantasy end of the scale.
If I could find the disks and find a Commodore 64 to run them I would have the first few pages of dozens of novels. I wrote them until I got a better idea, which was generally a couple of months later at most, when they would be dropped and forgotten. Even with my poor levels of commitment several of the novels were large enough to need several files as my overworked computer would run out of memory. Or I would draw intricate maps. Maps were always popular.
This continued– with virtually no thought ever given to writing short stories– until I was 19 years old. At that time i was living in a caravan park a few kilometres outside Canberra. There was even less to do there than in the small town of my childhood. So I decided to write a novel. And I decided that I would start writing the novel and not stop until I had finished. I also decided that I would forgo the huge, cast of thousands, epic fantasy pieces I had tended towards in the past and do something on a smaller scale. So each day I would sit in the steaming hot caravan or at the top of a slippery-dip in the caravan park’s play area and write longhand in a wirebound notebook.
19 days later, The Book of Gon was finished. It was only about 35k words, but it was complete and gave me something to work with. Over the next two years I kept working and eventually sent a sample to Pan who was just getting into fantasy in a big way at the time with the publication of the first novels by Martin Middleton and Tony Shillitoe.
And the editors asked to see the complete manuscript. I’m not sure if I was surprised at the time, but if I’d known then what I know now I would have thought myself the king of the world (well before Leonardo DeCaprio claimed the crown).
It didn’t go any further, of course, but there you go. I still have the original notebook somewhere. And the novel is sitting on my hard disk at this very moment. It isn’t terrible. It isn’t great either. After that original version I did some changes with the structure making it a bit unusual (part is first person, part second person and part third person, all told out of order).
I have another couple of note books that hold the two parts of a series whose name I can’t remember. The first book was completed ad entered in the first ever George Turner Prize. Pan also read the entire manuscript for that one. Like the Book of Gon (horrible title– ‘Dramoon’ and ‘Queen of the Moon’ were two other options thought up later) it isn’t terrible, well not that I remember and, shows a lot of things that I still use in my current writing. Most obviously, a desire to twist conventions while not actually breaking them. (The first book in the series is actually called The Twist which references several areas in addition to the one mentioned.) Or maybe a desire to see conventions from a different angle.
My writing has slowed down in recent years, but I will not complain about that. I would choose my family over writing any day of the week. But with the emergence of e-publishing my desire to write is starting to overwhelm me once more and I’m not sure that my family will keep me away much longer– I will just have to find time somewhere.