People talk a lot about the Writing Bug. ‘When did you catch the writing bug?’ ‘When did the writing bug bite you?’ In truth, I feel like I’ve always had some desire to write, but pin pointing the exact moment I knew what I wanted to do is somewhat trickier. Thanks JM, for getting me to think about it.
I’ve talked about it briefly on the Silk Over Razor Blades page, but the words there are specific to that novel. Writing in general began when I moved schools and met, for the very first time, the Windows Operating System. Previous to that, I had learned to touch type on BBC computers with green screens and white text, all functions completed via the keyboard with great help from the windows keys. I spent my time writing up song lyrics and odd bits of Shakespeare that I liked. I avoided soaps, enjoyed the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Sweet Valley High (barf, yes, I know, but I was young once, okay?!).
It was the books, especially that turned me towards writing. Mills and Boon (*sigh*) and anything by Christopher Pike I could borrow from the local library. But it seemed to me that all of the heroes of these books were men. Worse than that, it seemed to me that all of the women were either annoying as hell or utterly useless. Or both. o.O Perhaps that’s why I liked Buffy so much; strong female character, kicking ass and kicking it good.
Anyway, I realised that I wanted to read more about women doing grand and amazing things. More than that, I wanted to read more about black women doing cool and amazing things. Maybe I was reading the wrong books, or the wrong genre entirely, but it seemed to me that all the characters in these books were white. I found it strange, probably because my whole life to that point (and beyond) I had been surrounded by a race of races, creeds and religions. There is something about the north end of London that lends itself to incredible diversity that I just wasn’t picking up in these books.
Well… I thought to myself; if no one else is going to write about the things I want to read (believe me, I looked high and low!) then maybe I could do it instead. I wrote by hand, filling pages and pages of lined paper with the adventures of various girls – of my age, of course! – who were trying to find boyfriends. Or looking for jobs. Or progressing through school. Everything that I was doing. These early writings were so close to my own life that they were more like diary entries than any sort of fiction, but I was already keeping a diary. I didn’t need to do it twice.
That’s when I began to branch out and actually add a fictional element to these characters I was making. They began to take on their own personalities and quirks. They had backgrounds that were nothing to do with me at all and, before I knew it, I was starting to write stories.
There was no big moment when I decided I wanted to write; I just kinda stumbled onto it somehow. It was when I finished the first draft of Silk Over Razor Blades however (at that point called To Be A Teenage Vampire), that I had my first moment of ‘I want to be a writer.’ The euphoria at actually finishing a novel still fuels me to this day. The absolute glee at printing those pages and punching holes into them so I could place them into a ring binder. Handing that ring binder to my mum, to friends, to a particular uncle of mine who, even now, loves to read my work. The idea that I had accomplished something with a story and a set of characters that were unique to me was incredible! I realised then that it was a feeling I wanted to feel over and over and over and over.
Despite that, I had written five more follow up stories in the TBATV series before I realised that it was possible to publish. At that point I had no idea how hard it would be, or that I’d reach this stage of the journey, but I knew then what I wanted to do. I wanted to write and share my stories with the world.
That feeling has matured as the years have gone by. There is still a large element of wanting the write what other people have not. To show the diversity of the world of my words in a way that many other authors seem hesitant to do. The Ileandra Young of Silk Over Razor Blades is black. One of her best friends is Japanese and the other is a slightly plump and dumpy red head married to an Asian man. One of my most ‘butch’ roleplay characters is gay. Another of my characters is a transman. Another is an unlikely hero in the form of a midget who faints at the sight of blood.
I still read books were all the characters are beautiful and perfect. They’re all straight. Cardboard cut outs of the same ideal that features on almost every TV show and Hollywood film. I just feel that so long as there are people around me as different as cheddar is from brie, then I’ll continue to write that way and I’ll have something to say.