Dave Probert is a top bloke! He’s a good mate of mine, he runs the excellent Geek Planet Online and he has kindly written this guest post on getting back into the writing habit.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a head full of stories. In primary school we had to do the age old task of writing about what we did during the holidays. I grew up in a relatively poor household and we couldn’t afford to go on holiday. According to my Mum I would invent holidays so I would have something to write about and include drawings of places we stayed and things we did. I have no memory of doing this but it sounds in character.
In junior school I would seize any opportunity to write creatively. I distinctly remember writing a short Sci-fi story called The Plankton Planet based on a report I had watched on Newsround. This involved a man called Joe having to battle a room full of sentient, man eating plankton and he eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the Earth. I wish I still had a copy of that somewhere but sadly it is now nothing but an anecdote on a blog.
As I grew older and I obtained a free word processing programme for my Amiga 600 from the cover of a magazine, I started to type my stories. I had friends who were doing media studies at college and I wrote a radio play for them called The Adventures of Savernake Durley which we recorded, and a short action adventure film called Paperchase which never got made.
Then I became an adult and the whole pesky business of work, relationships and life in general slowly crept in and I put my words down on paper less and less. There never seemed to be the time to write as much as there was when I was a child and I was in a perpetual state “I’ll get around to it later”. The fact that I stopped writing didn’t mean that the stories stopped in my head. There are so many tales that I never got around to writing down such as my spin off novel about the Doctor Who Missing Adventures companion Grant Markham (Whom I had become a little obsessed with at the time as the drawing of him next to Colin Baker on the cover of the book Killing Ground looked a lot like me)
My relationship with writing seemed to go hand in hand with my relationship with reading. As a child I devoured the Doctor Who novelisations published by Target. Like many of my generation Terrence Dicks was the reason I fell in love with reading in the first place. When I was 12 I was introduced to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and my mind was completely blown. In the 90s I started to read Virgin’s Doctor Who New Adventures and was introduced to a whole raft of new authors such as Paul Cornell and Ben Aaronovitch, who opened me up to new ideas and harder Sci-fi concepts than I had been used to (I still strongly recommended Aaronovitch’s The Also People which is a murder mystery set inside a Dyson sphere, where the victim is a robot and some of the suspects are sentient spaceships).
Sadly, again real life ate into my reading time and I stopped losing whole days in books as I did as a child. This thought in retrospect makes me rather sad, like a part of me had died, sacrificed upon the altar of adulthood.
This all changed with the innovation of the Kindle, a device I was initially suspicious of until my friend and GeekPlanetOnline compatriot Matt Dillon purchased one and let me use it to prove the point that it wasn’t a “stupid waste of time”. My misgivings evaporated immediately and once I had received some money the following Christmas I bought one of my own. That was three years ago.
My love of reading has now been thoroughly reignited. After immediately buying The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the third time (the idea of reading about the titular electronic book on an electronic book was an irony too delicious to resist. I hope Douglas Adams would have approved) I went on to discover a whole new group of authors. I have discovered I love Fantasy in both epic and urban forms. I have a developed a huge love and admiration for the work of writers like China Mieville, Joe Abercrombie and Sarah Pinborough. To my delight I discovered that my old favourites Cornell and Aaronovitch were writing in the genre. I have devoured the Rivers of London books and I’m looking forward to reading London Falling. There are also authors such as Emma Newman whose work I have yet to read but is now part of my ever expanding reading pile.
It may sound silly to some, but these people are my rockstars. I have been in the same room as Joe Abercrombie twice now and on both occasions have completely failed to summon up the courage to speak to him, because he’s my David Bowie. Someone who has utterly changed how I view a genre.
I have also become inspired by the work of my friends. People like Jen, who has successfully made the transition from self-published novella to a fully fledged three book publishing deal or Matt, who has written a wonderful novella called Traveller’s Duty and Doug Strider’s wonderful Space Danger! I have so much admiration for them and their work and they have inspired me to start writing again for the first time in what seems like an age.
So now I’m trying to write something that I might actually finish. With that comes a degree of anxiety. In comparison to their work I feel a rather like a tramp kicking a bin outside a Led Zepplin concert. Who wants that racket distracting them from the genius happening nearby?
While I have the nerves for now, I’m trying to not let them phase me. I’m just happy that my head is still as full of stories as it’s always been, and that I’ve rekindled my love of telling them. – Dave Probert