Why I Write (It Ain’t Pretty)

I write because I have no choice in the matter. The words are inside and they need to come out, sometimes in a rapid flow, sometimes like squeezing blood from a stone. I write every single day of the year. I don’t want a break from it; in fact, it feels wrong if I don’t write.
As I grow older, this compulsion, this obsession, grows stronger, and I come to define myself more and more as a writer. I’m one of the lucky ones, since a fair bit of what I finish these days gets published in one way or another, even if it’s no more than one of these blog pieces.
Writing is my gift and my curse. It’s also what I’ve dreamed of doing since I was 11 years old. At school we had to write an essay, to tell a story in three paragraphs. It was an exercise, of course, so show us how to use paragraphs for developing a thought. But after I’d finished my piece, it was as if a switch had clicked in me. That’s how it’s done!
Writing might be an art but it’s also a craft. I wrote plenty of unpublished novels, short stories that perhaps saw print somewhere or other but were mostly rejected. And rightly so, even if I was less certain at the time. The craft part has come from years of music journalism, where there isn’t the luxury of time to go through endless revisions, and you learn to pick the right word or phrase the first time. And good editors who pushed and prodded me.
But I’m not an artist. I’m an entertainer, someone who tries to take people out of their lives for a few hours and make them believe in somewhere else, some other time. There is no magic, perhaps, beyond sleight of hand. When a book is finished, people are back in themselves again. They might enjoy what they’ve read, but only a few books have the power to change people’s lives. I’m not sure I’d even want mine to be among them.
I’m just a person who sits down at the computer in the morning and writes down the movie playing in my head. If I’m lucky it’s because the film rarely breaks or fades to scratches and white noise. I’m still the 11-year-old understanding how this can work. And doing it because I have to.

Making That New Character A Woman

For my new Seattle Emerald City series of books, my main character was a male music journalist – something I did myself in that city. I say was quite advisedly: the company that’s publishing the books (simultaneously as ebooks and audiobooks) suggested making the protagonist female. It wasn’t a demand, by any means, and I understood the practical rationale behind it (one of the women behind the company is American and an award-winning ebook narrator and actress – Lorelei King). But it appealed to me. I’m male, think like a man. Now I’m changing the character’s sex and it’s proving to be a wonderful, deep challenge. It affects every dynamic in the book, every interaction with every character, male and female. More than that, I have to get into her head and learn to think, and more especially feel, as a woman. What writer wouldn’t relish? Seattle in the late 1980s was far more feminist than most parts of the US. Gender politics were rife, as were gay politics, which were interlinked. That has to be part of it, and it’s made me think and become more aware of the sexism inherent in everyday life. It was more so then, and quite casual, but it still exists. It was even there in the music scene, not too bad but still there. There were some female music journalists around, but men remained in the majority and they made up most of the musicians. A woman writer said to me that women feel more. That might not always be exactly true, but in general women are more aware of their feelings, and they’ll discuss them, with partners and friends, so that has to becomes part of the equation of character, too. Add to that the fact that I’m inserting this character into a story that’s already written, although there will be some changes and it becomes even more interesting. Am I enjoying it? Absolutely. Will it succeed? I hope so, but you’ll have to read for yourself to decide. That’s your challenge…