I am constantly reminded of how curious grandchildren can be when they are not asking you what it was like to live with dinosaurs!
The second eldest who is a rather clever 13-year-old considers it interesting that I’m a writer, and having just met a ‘real’ author who came to visit them at school, asked me a few questions, some of which sounded like those that had been asked of my ‘real’ counterpart.
Like, “how old were you when you first wrote a story, and what was that story about?”
I didn’t think it was when I was at school, but sometime after that, and after a lot of reading. Perhaps it had been one of those moments when a light bulb goes on in your head, and I said to myself, I can write these stories too.
Of course, that wasn’t an answer, so she asked again, when did I start writing?
That required a little thought, and there were several triggers that gave me a date, where I lived at the time, the fact I used my mother’s old portable typewriter, and the fact I had not been long out of school. I was, in fact, about 17. It was 45 years ago; I’ll let you do the math!
What was it about; that I couldn’t tell her, but I said I had rescued a lot of old scribbling of mine and put them in a box to look at later when I had the time.
I guess that time had arrived.
And, yes, there was the book, the individually typed pages, some with corrections, unfinished.
The pages were brown with age.
The story, well, I read the first few pages, and it seems I’d started down the thriller path then, the story so far, an agent comes ashore from a trawler to a bleak and isolated village, perhaps on the Scottish coast.
Then there was the inevitable next question; “What was the first story you read that put you on the path to wanting to become a writer”.
That was easy, Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses. I showed her a copy of the book.
That led to, “but this is about the British Royal Navy in World War 2…”
Perhaps I didn’t answer that correctly, it was after reading about a dozen of his novels, most of which were precursors to the modern-day thriller, perhaps more along the lines of action adventures.
The next question, understandably; “What was the first book you ever finished?”
That was The Starburst Conspiracy, the manuscript of which was in the box along with another completed novel, and quite a few short stories.
Back in those days, I remembered that I had sent some of my stories off to various publishers, and had entered a number of short story competitions, all to no avail. And for a number of years, until I because to old, used to write and enter a novel in the Vogel novel competition but never made it to the shortlist.
It’s probably why I gave up writing for a number of years, until I worked for an interesting company who had a rich history of phosphate mining in the Pacific and being given permission to look into the archives, began writing what could only be described a saga, and by the time I’d left, it was over 1200 closely typed pages long.
I showed the bulky manuscript to her, but by this time her interest had moved to something else.
For me, however, it seemed there was a lot of unfinished business.