Twelve months ago, Firebird sat gathering the magnetic equivalent of dust on my hard-disk. I thought that was a shame – stories haven’t got a chance of being enjoyed if they’re not being shared – so today marks the anniversary of me doing something to change that.
One year in, I’ve also just realised that the whole publishing furore almost made me lose sight of one of the important things I’d set out to try to do with my writing. Almost two decades ago, when I first put pen to paper, I was partly motivated by frustration. Frustration at being force-fed rigid, formulaic, safe writing. Every book I was picking up seemed to be based on one or more prescribed element. You know the score: good guy meets bad girl…, good girl meets bad guy…, every character in a story has to have an obvious and often distasteful flaw…, an “idiot’s guide” will pop up, by some miracle, just in time to help the hero(ine) solve even the most ancient riddle…, there are hoards of vampires, werewoves and magicians walking amongst us….
With Firebird I wanted to play with the mix. To see if I could get a storyline to drift off to one side of the seemingly well trodden fictional highways. Risky – yes. But fun all the same. Firebird’s central character is not human. The human characters are fairly ordinary people. Humanity is powerful but not almighty. Perceptions are dangerous. There is no “idiot’s guide”. The plot is dictated by a strange nature and then by this strange nature alone.
This is all my fault and now I’ve finally remembered that this is actually what I set out to do. I don’t need to chase around forums and pull on sackcloth every time someone says something harsh or hostile. My whole point was to see if I could dare to be different and I think the book does that. A fact proven by the positive reviews it’s received and I’m delighted that there are other people who, for whatever reason, find an affinity with my work. This makes the hundreds of hours of effort, and the decision to publish, feel like they were worthwhile and the right choice.
I see writing and books as an art-form and, like most arts, there’s very little money in it. That’s what forces the traditional publishing houses, very sensibly, to back the safe bets and it means that the majority of writers, myself included, do what we do for love – not return. Our work may be flawed, might cut against the established norms, might be relevant only to niche-markets but perhaps there’s also a faint chance that it will influence future style and stimulate new innovations. I hope so.
I want my writing to stay “off the beaten track”.
I want to stimulate thoughts and questions.
I want to try to challenge the norm.
For me, that’s the whole point…
Happy Birthday Firebird!