Thursday, November 16

The Inspiration to Write

On Monday, Sue aka MsCreativity blogged about what inspires her to write and, in doing so, she inspired me to do the same thing! Make sure you’re comfortable -- this is my story. (It's long.)

I’ve always been a reader. Always. When I was little, every Saturday morning my dad would take my sister and I to our nearest mid-sized town, where he would get shopping and do odd jobs and then take us to the library. You could (and still can) take out ten books at a time on your library card and my sister and I used to pore over the shelves for things we hadn’t read. Once I started getting pocket money I would treat myself to a lip balm from Boots as well, and maybe a packet of strawberry laces from the sweet shop. Even now I get nice fuzzy feelings when I think of the journey home, listening to Dave Lee Travis's "wack wack oops" snooker quiz on Radio 1 with a bagful of books and my little purchases by my side! :)

I read many different kinds of books over the years, but like Sue, Enid Blyton was one of my staples. I enjoyed the Famous Five stories (particularly the one where they stay in a yellow gypsy caravan), but my favourites were the Magic Faraway Tree books, the St Clare’s school stories, Hollow Tree House, and – rather controversial these days – The Three Golliwogs. I was also a big fan of Joyce Lankester Brisley’s Milly Molly Mandy books and my all-time favourite children’s book was, and still is, Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse.

I must have been about eight when I first began to write; tales of adventure, usually revolving around my friends and I off into the woods with a knapsack of food and a mystery to solve. I didn’t know it then, but I was already doing what many fledgling writers do – emulating their favourite authors! Around the age of twelve I entered the WHSmith Young Writers Competition (I don’t think it's active any more) with a story about a wizard who lived on Atlantis. I lost the story ages ago, but the story basically explained what happened to Atlantis. If I remember rightly I blamed it on a band of fraudulent ne’er-do-wells who somehow managed to sell the island to a higher power…

I didn’t write for a while after that, but I was still reading. Around this time the “Point Horror” book series launched, and my friends and I were mad about them. We used to consult over who had what book and make sure that we each bought (or asked for at birthdays) different titles, so between us we had a full library that we could swap and share. Not long after “Point Horror” took off, a new series, “Point Romance”, was launched, and I fell headfirst into that, too. After I’d entered my teen years, I started my “adult fiction reading career” with that classic title – Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I devoured the rest of the series, but I never liked her other series half as much (particularly the ghost-written ones). Soon afterwards, my parents separated and I, feeling dreary and gothic most of the time, read only Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

When I began to study English Literature for GCSE and A-Level I started to make my own selective reading choices in the bookshops. I widened my horizons, picking up books I’d never heard of to try something new and catching up on the classics that other classes had been set at school that I thought sounded interesting. Around this time, I was living with my dad and his second wife. One day a package of Mills & Boon books arrived at the house, sent on a Reader Service promotion (with a free pen in a velvet pouch and, if I remember correctly, a dusky rose-coloured wine glass!). I can vividly remember taking one in to read during a bath – a Christmas story – and shivering in the rapidly-chilling water over an hour later because I could not put that book down. Shamefully, I can’t remember the title or the author.

I began to write again. I flirted with some poetry and wrote a few short stories, then tried to start a thriller about an American town dominated by an evil river. It didn’t go very far. Life intervened for a few years: I finished school and got a job (whilst working another part-time job in the evenings), and though I continued to read, I stopped writing. Then the new millennium hit, and things went pear-shaped. My dad got divorced again. I relocated, moved in with my mum, and started a new job, working for a pensions provider. A couple of scant months later, my dad passed away.

My world was rocked. It had come from nowhere. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus and though my mind and feelings were in a state of chaos, something felt very clear to me. It was trite phrase -- over-used, bandied about -- but suddenly it was all I could think about.

Life’s too short.

As my compassionate leave from work drew to a close, I called and told them I wouldn’t be coming back. The one thing about the job that had excited me was that it was the first time I had brought home a paycheck that, after tax, amounted to slightly over £1,000. But the work bored me. Nothing was interesting. I didn’t live for it.

I took the summer off, using some of the savings my grandparents had left me to help out with shopping and to buy myself books and a laptop. I surfed the net. Tried to think about what I could do next. Then one day, another promotional package from Mills & Boon dropped through the door. I consumed the books in less than two days, went online and ordered more. I found and joined the message boards. I scoured Amazon for books on how to write romance.

And I started to write.

The process from my initial beginnings (writing along to my stream of consciousness with no idea about my plot of my characters) to where I am now is long-winded, and since I’ve gone on rather longer than I’d expected already, I won’t bore you with it! The summer I’ve just described -- when I discovered romance writing good and proper as an escape from what had happened and as something I instantly fell in love with and thought, “yes, I can do this,” – was five years ago. In that time I’ve started a number of different projects. Two have been published. I wrote a number of short stories, as well. One has been published.

I’ve known, pretty much since then, that writing romance is my “calling”. It’s all I want to do (besides having a family and living a happy, comfortable life). And sometimes it’s hard work. Very hard work. But I still love it. It’s a constant. My love affair with it is my longest love affair yet (I met The Bloke just before Christmas, later that year).

So, getting back to the point… what inspired me to write?

My love of books.

The way I devour a great story, and the hope that I can create one for somebody else, if not for myself.

A life-changing event that showed me that life really is too short, and doing something you enjoy should be prized much more highly than doing something that just means you can afford to shop in nicer places.

And, above all, an instinctual love for writing that is always, always there -- even on the difficult days.

What inspires you to write?

Just finished reading: Heart of a Mercenary by Loreth Anne White


Sue aka MsCreativity said...

(((Jessica))), thank you so much for sharing the road you've travelled and what has inspired you to write.

I LOVED the Magic Faraway Tree series, and did you read the ones about the Wishing Chair too? I also remember reading (and enjoying) Flowers in the Attic and a few other Virginia Andrew's books.

Oh my goodness, I still have those wine glasses from having been a M&B subscriber!!!

Life is too short, and it's often not until we become personally affected by something that we realise the truth of this saying. Your inner strength and resolve is wonderful and so inspiring. You're a great writer (and I know this from the first chapters I've read so far from Haunted Hearts).

You have a long and wonderful writing career ahead of you.

Wishing you all the very best and loads of success with your future writing.

Sue :-)

Jessica Raymond said...

Oh, Sue, you've made me sniffle! *Hugs*

I never actually read the Wishing Chair books. I forgot to mention Mallory Towers, though, and the books about "Moon Castle" and "Killimooin" (I think mine came in a duet paperback). I also forgot to mention The Hobbit and Roald Dahl! Bah. Just as well really, or my blog would probably have exploded :)

LOL on the wine-glasses. I only got the one but I have loads of the pens, a tortoiseshell mirror compact, and packets upon packets of watercolour postcards!

You're so right about a big life event knocking us into facing what it is we really want to do. Otherwise I think you coast on and think of the day when your real life will start. Nobody wants a life event like that to make them see the way, but I sometimes wonder if I would be where I am now if I hadn't been hit by "Life's Too Short".

Thank you so, so much for your lovely comments. I'm waiting for a book of yours to be published so I can say the same! *Hug* I wish you all the best, too.

Sniff, sniff!

Jess x

Anonymous said...

Jess, loved reading your road to writing. Each of us has a trigger and you used yours positively :) Life is short and its so important to grab it with both hands!!!! Or the keyboard anyway.

thanks for sharing.