For my first entry on my new website I want to give you an insight into why I write. But before I do that, let me take you back to where it all began.
I’m a dreamer. Not a drifty-eyed, combie-van, hope-for-the-best kind of person, but a dreamer in the most literal way. I dream, at night, while asleep. And I have some rollicking dreams. My favourite and most recurrent dreams involve zombies. Lots of zombies, chasing me, through houses and forests and abandoned cities, their decaying arms flailing after me, their rotting teeth hoping to feast on my brains.
Some might say the proper term would be nightmares, but for me it is different. These are exciting, enthralling, spirited night-time adventures. In these dreams I am fearless and empowered, confident and competent, brave and capable. I’m fleet-footed and nimble, I’m fighting bad guys and saving loved ones. I am head deep in a joyous, rip-snorting battle. And I awake feeling energised, capable of facing anything in my day.
I started writing these zombie dreams down. I can’t say why exactly, the dreams just left such a strong mark on me that I felt they should be prolonged somehow. I guess I hoped I could relive these adventures, maybe even create new ones while awake. Soon I had recorded several battle scenes, then I started adding actual characters, then something of an overarching plot, and eventually, belatedly, I realise I was writing a novel.
And it was awesome.
I have always loved writing; studying it at high school, using it to fudge my way through the less stimulating classes at university, and now as my greatest strength in my professional career. But this novel writing business was an entirely new sensation; I was learning, exploring, creating something entirely new. Tangible and relevant. Something that I’d want to read.
In the end it took me over two years to write and refine Nothing but the Dead and Dying (working title Zombie Town, and for a long while Grote Expectations). To my surprise, my gut reaction on completing my first novel was not satisfaction, or relief at having finished the monumental (and often painful) effort. I just wanted to write some more. I immediately started on another book and, after a couple of years of hard work, Off the Rails was born.
Now I’ve started two more. And I can’t see myself stopping any time soon.
Stephen King once likened writing to archaeology, the act similar to brushing away the crumbs of dirt at an excavation to slowly reveal the treasure underneath. As someone who has studied archaeology at university, I can say writing is the much more exciting pursuit. The craft of the words, the journey through the plot, the exploration of the characters, even the tireless editing and redrafting—it had me in its thrall so quickly, yet it took me a long time to realise it.
And the reason is simple: I love the adventure of it. Every book I write brings swashbuckling and vine-swinging and mystery-solving to my every day. And, perhaps more than that, writing (and learning about the writing craft) is itself an adventure. Experimenting with new words, trying out crazy new scenes, trialling new structures, new voices, new characters—it is all an exploration, a quest, a battle; and one I greatly enjoy.
So that is why I write. That is why my website is here. And it is the same reason I read. More importantly, it is what I hope readers get from my books: a sense of real adventure. I only write so that people can read these stories, experience the same joyous thrall I do. I want to take the reader out of their world and into a place of exploration and conflict and excitement. I want to empower them, to motivate them. To surprise and shock and leave hearts pumping and minds wanting more. More.
So, if anything I write ever achieves that for you, please, please let me know.
Because that is why I write.