I wrote my first novel at the age of thirteen. Before that, when I attended Gorsedale Middle School, I remember Mr Davis being impressed with a poem I had written. He included it in a school anthology, and I drew a picture to go with it. I felt so honoured and thrilled to have my name in print for the first time in my life. It is a feeling that has never waned, but it isn’t the driving force. Creating is.
Mr Davis was a great teacher. He taught English, with such a love of words, drama, that you could not help but become infected by his enthusiasm. He was a good man too, with always time to listen and help. On more than one occasion he would bring me to school when it rained, as I stood huddled up like a drowned rat waiting for the bus. My favourite teacher. I don’t where he is, or if he is still alive, but I’d like to thank him. He made Gorsedale bearable, which was difficult because it was one hell of a place!
The publication of that poem, I suppose you could say was the first recognition of myself as a writer. Not something I thought of seriously, you understand. A lot of us do such things, especially at school. For me, however, it lit a tiny flame that has burned away ever since.
I’m not sure why I wrote the novel I did. I had been a fan of ‘Callan’ for many years, and I still am. I remember last year buying the boxed-set of DVDs from the late 60s, the very first series, grainy black and white. Such a wonderful programme, Edward Woodward and Russell Hunter, such consummate actors. Well, that was a sort of catalyst, watching that show every Wednesday. I sat down and began to write a spy thriller. I wanted to capture that spirit of down-trodedness (is there such a word? Well, there should be!) which was so prevalent in ‘Callan’; that alternative spy, somewhat in the way ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ imbued. As unlike James Bond as you can imagine.
In those days – we’re talking 1970 – novels were generally much shorter than they are now. Again, look at those James Bond books. Casino Royale is what, 50,000 words? Something like that. Agatha Christie’s are around the same. I was reading a lot of John Creasy and Leslie Charteris back then, and all of them pitched in at around the 40,000 mark. So, with that in mind, I plotted my thriller, with a guy called Smellows as the hero. What a name! My God, why did I choose that? Bond, Callan, Leamas…Smellows?
OK, enough of that. I laboured long and hard over that book. I remember going to ‘Bookland’ in my hometown of Wallasey, buying the paper. I typed it out on my brother’s Olivetti. Looking back, I was a total idiot, not having a clue how to format the page, not evening putting in a carbon paper to make a copy. I used masking fluid, then later those little papers you could get that you put under the typing keys to erase a mistake. It took weeks. And at the end of every day I would recalculate how many words I had got down. I would check and recheck novels from my bookcase, calculate the word length, saying to myself, ‘OK, maybe I could get down 35,000 instead of 40?’ I became obsessed I suppose.
Today, isn’t it so much easier? We all have microprocessors, we can edit as we go, use the spelling checker, etc. Then, it really was hard graft. But I did it. I wrote 45,000 words in the end, neatly packed single-spaced on 120 pages. That caused me some concern, as all of my novels on my shelf were around 180 pages long. But I kept reassuring myself that I had more words per line. It was going to be all right. I had actually completed a novel.
So, what did I do with it?
I put it away in a drawer, neatly inside a card folder. And there it stayed. Forever. I never submitted it, I don’t think I even re-read it. And not many people know it even exists. In fact, come to think about it, I don’t think anyone knows it exists.
Do I care? Not really. I read and read and read all about people putting out their books on Kindle, or wherever, spouting off about getting the book out there, getting it sold, making money…I’m sorry, but I simply don’t care. I write for the sheer love of creating. Once you start down the road of thinking you’re going to make money, I think you’ve lost it. Lost the reason. Genesis said it in ‘Duke’. ‘Too much thinking about the people, and what they might want’. Write what YOU want, not what others demand. Write not for profit, but to create. I’ve written 32 books. Are they all in print? No. And some of them never will be. Not because I don’t think they’re worthy, but because I’m always looking to my next book. Once one is written, re-drafted, polished, it is forgotten. I move on. Does that make me a fool? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I write and I love it.
Despite the above, I have published a fair few, and continue to write with publishing in mind. Why not visit my websites and have a look at what I do. www.glennstuart.co.uk for Young Adult paranormal mysteries, and www.stuartgyates.com for more adult orientated stories. I am working on a historical novel right now, with a publisher, and I think it is going to be pretty good, so please keep calling back to catch up with all the latest.
Thanks for dropping by, and keep reading.