I started writing novels (or novellas) when I was thirteen. Do you know that period when girls had massive, pathetic crushes on the guys in boybands? I remember it started with Ronan Keating, Gary Barlow, A.J. McLean, Taylor Hanson, and then Darren Hayes and so on. No matter how pathetic (tongue-kissing posters included, not to mention masturbation leading to tears), they were my muses to write the most sentimental shit ever in my damn adolescence.
I didn’t have friends until I was fifteen, so I had no one to confide in. All I did was feel sorry for myself in fiction. I was accumulating burning emotions triggered by neglect, loneliness, self-loathing and ennui. I wanted to experience love, but it was all unrequited or wishful thinking. So what would you do in that case? Yes, read some Nicholas Sparks, cry your fucking eyes out and write your own stories (fanfiction perhaps), using your own name and the name of your boyband crush. You think of how you want the relationship to begin and develop, and then you write about how you imagine your first sex. You want it to be gentle, slow and full of love!
But what’s the reality like? It’s shit. For most girls, the first time feels shit. It hurts, you bleed, and you feel shit (unless you broke your hymen another way and feel awesome). I believe I over-fantasized about that one in my stories. Whatever.
Taylor Hanson was the main figure in most of my attempted novels from around 1997, I think. Most of the time, I would copy high school movies and write similar scenes. I used to write in the third person mostly (which I find hard to do now). Other than love, I wrote about friendship. I would write about being in love with my best friend because no love could be stronger than that (ever watched Reality Bites?). I used to base my fanfiction on stories like Interview with a Vampire, Titanic (yes, I did), Stand By Me, Jim Carroll, etc.
A fascinating thing that happened from 1997 to 2000 was writing original short novels that suddenly came out as movies! I wrote a story called Inside Your Iris in which a blind man falls in love with a woman. And what happened? A movie came out where Val Kilmer played a blind massage therapist and met a female eye doctor with whom he fell in love. WTF! It was interesting and scary at the same time because I felt like someone had stolen my idea.
In 1999-2000 I was determined to write a proper novel called ‘Astronaut Dreams’ (inspired by a song from Feeder). The story was set in Great Britain (London and Edinburgh). Boy meets girl in London. She works in a coffee shop, and he works at Virgin Megastore. They become best friends and more, but shit hits the fan. Of course, you know the drill. And about nine years later, David Nicholls released One Day. He did it so much better than me, though. During that period, I wrote another story called In the Truest Dense, which was inspired by Nicholas Sparks. I gave it to my teacher to read, and I remember her writing me a nice review, but in it, she wrote the protagonist’s name wrong all the way through.
In 200, I attempted another novel which I named The Long Path. It was about a male writer obsessed with writing a breakthrough novel. He finds a muse, falls in love with her and abandons her. It wasn’t really going anywhere, and I messed up the ending. Initially, the story was about making decisions–you can’t have everything.
In 2004, I worked on a piece of science fiction called Single, Fused & Separate during my English Literature and Creative Writing degree. It was supposed to be about cloning, identity and all that stuff. I was conducting research on placentas, genetics and cloning.
That novel became my dissertation at the time. There has never been a finished draft. I still have the notes on developing that novel, but I’m not too sure where it’s headed. Apparently, the beginning bears a resemblance to many other novels. My tutor said that past authors had done that repeatedly, and I had to re-think it and make it more original.
Obviously, a man wakes up in a room, which is not his; no one is there; he doesn’t know where he is. Sounds familiar? (Think of books by Paul Auster or Jonathan Nolan’s short story Memento Mori.) However, Single, Fused & Separate might be my next project unless I decide to write something else because writing science fiction doesn’t come naturally. It’s too big of a meal to eat and digest.
In 2006/2007, I wrote a short story called The Blood-Stained Plaster in which I wrote about a twisted female doctor obsessed with drawing people’s blood. I submitted it as a piece of coursework and got a straight-A. (I never had As in my life!)
When my tutor Nick said he loved it, and it was worth developing, I knew I had to do it. I was in love with him at the time, too (yes), but I really did have faith in that story. The blood-stained band-aid, in fact, became chapter thirteen in my latest novel, Somewhat Damaged – Ellen’s Heart Surgery.
I’d worked on that novel for ten years, showed it to fellow writers during my master’s degree, finished it, re-drafted it, re-drafted it, re-drafted it, and had it edited by a wonderful editor, re-drafted it and re-drafted it. And now I’m ready for haters because love is not what it seems. There is a dark hole for everyone. You’re lost when you’re aware of it, and you can only save yourself by making up a lie and believe in it. It worked for Leonard Shelby.
Writing makes you wiser; you feel somewhat lonely, but it helps clear your head by identifying and processing unpleasant emotions and thoughts. Not many people understand, and that’s why some of us are alone among the living dead.
This is it. And I will keep writing until I’m brain-dead.
Oh, you think I was over my pathetic boy crushes? You are wrong.
Inside Your Iris was about John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls). The Long Path was about Grant Nicholas (Feeder). In the Truest Sense was about Darren Hayes (Savage Garden), and Single, Fused & Separate was about Trent Reznor (NIN).
I’m growing up, you see. After all, the idea of all these boys has saved me. However, the characters in Somewhat Damaged are purely fictional.