So, I was definitely growing up as a girl who loved reading and writing. My love of The Famous Five had taken me from wanting to be a detective when I grew up to wanting to be a librarian. My best subject at school was story writing; funnily enough, I can’t remember many of the books I was reading at that time, but I can still remember some of the stories I wrote at school. It was the only time I felt like a star, when the other children in the class wanted to hear my stories read out loud. I knew then that writing was something I could do better than most of the others.
In my teens, I also began to be interested in Fantasy. That world of wizards, heroes, kings, princesses, magic, dragons and all the other clichés, really appealed to me. But I felt like a freak, believing that I was the only one. I hadn’t realised that there was actually a massive Fantasy market out there, because the rather limited children’s literature that I was reading did not provide much. I had to satisfy my cravings with The Chronicles of Narnia, and the film Time Bandits, and a rather dreadful cartoon series called Dungeons and Dragons. (I had been introduced to The Hobbit, but being made to read it in first year of secondary school seemed to have only make me hate it – my Tolkien obsession was to come much later.) So, with an absence of books that I wanted to read, I started to write my own.
I look back on it now and can see that I wasn’t just influenced by my inspirations, but was actually directly ripping them off. My story was about a group of children magically transported to another world, very different to their own – that was Dungeons and Dragons. The geography, history and life-style of the world were completely Narnian, and the battle between good and evil came straight from Time Bandits. But I wasn’t worried about that. After all, my story was different, because it was about me and my school friends, dragged away from a school disco, into a world where an Evil sorcerer kept everyone under a spell of cruelty, and only the child of destiny could break the spell. Of course, I was the child of destiny, but I wouldn’t learn that until my friends and I had gone on our quest to find the way home. Along the way, the evil sorcerer would do his best to stop us, and one by one, terrible things happened to my friends until it was just me alone to face the evil sorcerer, and successfully break the spell.
When I started this story, it felt no different to every other story I had started, destined to be begun in a nice thick notebook and never finished. But this time, I did one thing differently – I told my friends about it. After all, they were in it, and they loved my stories. This was the best thing I could have done, because once they knew, they wanted to read it. And as they couldn’t read it until it was finished, they encouraged me to keep writing. So this time, I did. Page after page of lined A4 paper, filled with my italic hand-writing, in one long continuous narrative. I had the basic plot in my head but was making it all up as I went along. And as the page numbers grew, I realised that this one different. This was serious. This was a novel, my first novel, and I was actually now a writer, using school holidays and weekends to advance my story. It took me over a year, but with my friends expecting regular updates, I kept going, until the momentous day came when I finished it. I had written a novel and I was only fourteen years old.
My friends had waited patiently all this time and still wanted to read it, and I was eager to hand over the A4 ring folder that my manuscript was now contained in, ready for their adulation. Even if editing had been possible in those pre-computer days, I wouldn’t have done any, for I had already achieved the most impressive thing ever simply by completing it. I think this fact was enough to impress my friends too, because they all loved it. I would lend it to anyone who expressed an interest, confident that they were going to be blown away by my achievement. And because they were my friends, they didn’t say anything mean about it, so I continued to believe in my own brilliance. And why not – no-one else that I knew had written a novel at the age of fourteen. I had such expectations of greatness, with sequels and film-deals and imagined appearances on Blue Peter. But though I might have been premature in my hopes, I allow myself some pride as I look back on what is technically my first novel, because it was an impressive achievement for a child. More importantly, it taught me that I was capable of writing and completing novels, setting me on a course that brings me to where I am today, with six and a half novels under my belt and this website.
STOP PRESS – In planning this blog, I wanted to include a photograph of that novel, still in its A4 ring folder. But when I went to find it, confident that I knew where it was, IT WASN’T THERE! I have no idea when I last saw it, or why I may have moved it. For thirty years, it has been moved around from house to house, always safely guarded, but never read or touched. So at this moment in time, I am extremely perplexed; I know it must be in the house somewhere, but the thought of losing something so precious is very worrying. If I have to turn the house upside down to find it, I will.