The Questionings

Over the weekend, we celebrated a non-Christmas happening. On Saturday night, we went to a birthday party. My niece has reached the big “2-1”:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Twenty-one! But, but, but… that’s not possible! Where have the years gone?:

At the restaurant table, I ended up sitting across from her great-uncle, whom I’ve long known. He works for a local government in eastern England. At one point, he asked me about my writing.

I told him I am still at it, working on a new novel.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

“Do you have a way you write?” he asked.

I’ve learned that is one of the tougher questions any writer ever has to try to answer. Personally, I tend towards near-chaos – much as in our actual lives. But to attempt to describe that in chit-chat? I heard myself starting to say: “I wake up with my brain racing…”

My Mrs beside me jumped in: “He’s downstairs talking to himself at 5:30 in the morning.”

I tried to explain further: “Right now, I’m writing historical fiction. I’m at it often for several hours straight and get so focused that if the doorbell rings knocking me back into reality that I nearly hit the ceiling. Writing is addictive. It’s a remarkable feeling to get a note from someone about how much they liked your book. I don’t pay attention to negative comments, but fortunately there aren’t too many of those I’ve seen. I was considering ‘retiring’ from writing after finishing the previous book, and I did very little new for about six months. Then I realized I wanted to do more. This one is coming along slowly, but it’s getting there.”

“Your books are on Kindles too?” he asked.

“Yes. And print and other e-readers.” Pointing at my 16 year old nephew sitting next to that great-uncle, I added, “He follows me on social media and knows exactly what I’m up to…”

“Yeh, I know you’re getting lots written when I don’t see you on Instagram,” my nephew laughed.

“I blog and use Instagram to promote my writing,” I detailed further for his great-uncle. “I had a cousin in America message me furious when I said I was cutting back on blogging to concentrate more on the writing. I had no idea she was reading me over her morning coffee.”

[Trilogy: Passports, Frontiers, Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1997. Paperback. Photo by me, 2018.]

“You also wrote that trilogy,” came from my soon to be twenty-four year old nephew, who was sitting across from my wife.

“Yes, and what I’m doing now is similar to that trilogy in some ways,” I noted. “You know, I need a new keyboard,” I chuckled. “I know I pound the keys as I type. Some keys don’t work predictably anymore. I’ve worn it out.”

I believe writers who drone on in social situations are some of the most irritating and boring of people, and I vowed early on I would never be one of those types; I prefer my books do my talking. So whenever I find myself asked to discuss my novels in a family/friends gathering like that one, I feel uncomfortable. I never bring up what I do and what I write about unless I’m point blank asked – and even then, I try to keep it low key.

[Excerpt from Passports, on iPad/iPhone for Kindle. Click to expand.]

I’ve been deliberately reserved especially towards younger members of the family. The reason for that is simple: aside from the first book of that trilogy, Passports, which is probably the closest I’ve come to writing what might be termed borderline “young adult,” my novels are not really meant for “under-18s.” If those younger want to read them, they are of course more than able to when they are just a little older.

True, aside from some (very rare) foul language there’s nothing in them that probably wouldn’t be seen nowadays on network American television or on ITV here in Britain. I suppose the difference is novels are inherently more “explicit” than television or even films simply because being books they rely on imagination in the reader. “Explicit” in that sense therefore is also entirely in the eye of the reader, so I prefer to be “conservative” in characterizing my books’ content.

However, that my novels aren’t meant for teens doesn’t mean they are inappropriate reading for “adventurous” and “mature” 15-17 year olds. It is that I don’t write with teens as a target reading group in mind: the stories are aimed at adults. I suspect most teenagers would probably not be interested in them anyway.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Indeed, what we read. I snapped that pic above the other day of my ten most recent Kindle reads on my iPad and had some fun posting it to my Instagram and getting reactions. I would not ever dare to compare myself to Cooper, Tolstoy, or Austen, but my own reading I’m sure does reflect what I write. No writer can escape that fact. We just all hope that somewhere along the line we’ve managed to make some tiny original literary contribution somehow.

Have a good Monday, wherever you are! 🙂