It all started with discontentment. I was a child, impatient and frustrated with the world around me which just wasn’t awesome enough to capture my full attention. I daydreamed about fading into the wilderness behind my house and entering a forested world of my own making where I could frolic with all the creatures, both real and imagined, I’d obviously befriend. Reading fantasy novels, and many of them of the Bad kind which was the focus of my rage yesterday, gave me all the right tools for this escapism.
Before long I realised that I liked my daydreamed imaginings, and I wanted to revisit them in the hours of boredom in classes, or before falling asleep at night. But sometimes I’d forget what awesome name I’d given the winged unicorn, or how I’d described the little cottage in the woods where I lived in these tales. Drastic measures needed to be taken, so I began to write the little vignettes down.
I’m not sure what became of these first works, but I’m not exactly sorry never to read them again. I can only imagine what they were like at that age. And truly I never managed to write more than a couple of pages before the flighty distractability of childhood brought my attention to something else, like overturning rocks to see their insect inhabitants scurry back towards the dark soil. Or putting the petals of our crab apple tree in a bucket of water, calling it “perfume” and towing it around on a wagon door-to-door to sell to the neighbours. They had to provide their own bottles, of course.
While I eventually outgrew my other occupations, of entomologist and perfumer, I never stopped writing. I was reading more than I wrote, devouring novels at a precocious speed, but my daydreams had only become more complex with age and needed more documentation. As an awkward pre-teen with glasses, frizzy hair, and above average intellect, novels were the way I handled feeling like I didn’t belong. I simply told myself that, no, I didn’t. I belonged in these imaginary worlds, obviously. So I entered them as often as I could, sometimes to the frustration of teachers who would catch me hiding a book in my lap during classes.
I wrote my first “The End” at around age 14, a major achievement. It was a short novella entitled Silver about a girl named Nell who was in a plane crash, landed on a mysterious island inhabited by a silver-haired boy named Solas who was some kind of magic guardian of something (the details are fuzzy, but I do still have the whole first draft in a red notebook back in my old bedroom somewhere). Various hijinks ensued, a kiss scene occurred much to my delight, and the end was tragic and painful.
In other words, it was perfection to my teenaged self.
I didn’t write another novel attempt until much later, however. My discontentment was ever-present, and it began to overwhelm me in my later teenaged years. At age 16 I became a goth, dyed my hair black, and proclaimed true and utter depression was my only friend. That and some unhealthy relationships which followed me around until graduation. At age 18 I fled the country and all the problems I’d had therein. It mostly worked, too. I started writing again, and completed a short story entitled Anne which I used to explore the issues I’d left behind. It didn’t even suck too much.
I don’t think I realised it at the time, but despite my writing being fueled by general discontentment with the status quo I couldn’t be miserable and still write. Anne only came out once I’d escaped my teenaged funk and later I wrote Exodus in the company of the man who would become my husband. When we moved to America I didn’t write for the first soul-crushing year of poverty and living in the sort of town in which you don’t go out alone at night. It was only later, having taken a well-paying job and moving to a posh new town, that I wrote Cobault.
At the risk of sounding sentimental I find it telling that, although we are living in poverty again with little to no chance of either of us getting employed any time soon and slowly draining all my savings from the past two years, I just wrote The Long Road Home. It certainly helps that we’re living in a quiet little village in Fife, where the rowdiest neighbours are barking dogs, schoolchildren and grazing horses. There are worse places to find oneself unemployed in (and we’ve been there)!