Where I'm Calling From
(All writers steal. Thanks to Aliya Whiteley and Neil Ayres who wrote similar pieces to the one below. They also stole it from someone else.)
I was 28 and I had just come back from two years in Australia. I decided I wanted to write. I moved into my old room in my mum’s house. I didn’t work. I wrote. The result was The Brothers Mostecsky. It was hand-written, two hundred and fifty thousand words.
My biggest fear had been that I wouldn’t be able to do it, to think of a story. I saw that I could.
I bought a Brother word processor. It became my best friend. For the next year I typed up TBM. I did three jobs. I worked for a delivery company, I worked in an egg factory, I worked as a teacher. Finally TBM was finished. And much too long.
Make it simple, I told myself.
My next book, The Lodger, was simple. A gay man advertises for a lodger, gets one, and then the lodger drunkenly admits he has killed someone.
I sent it to a few publishers. I’ve never been one to send out hundreds of letters. You read about that. Luckily GMP said they would publish it. It’s not a quick process. Between sending it off and it being in the shops was two years.
The Lodger got good reviews. I still didn’t have a computer. The first review I saw was by chance on gay.com in Derby library. That was the best thing! The Lodger was a finalist in the Lambda Awards in America. It sold out its print run.
The Lodger took three months to write. After that I wrote a children’s book called The Fart Club (in 10 weeks). Then a book called Darts in a similar amount of time. The Fart Club wasn’t published, Darts nearly was. That’s a long story.
I wrote a sequel to The Lodger, called Rising Camp. As I finished it I found that GMP had stopped publishing. (The parent group was instead going to concentrate on the selling of dildos - they have a bigger mark-up). I sent Rising Camp to a publisher in America who said they were going to publish. Then they didn’t. That happens.
I wrote a more serious book called Zeitgeist. I liked this. Nobody else did. I was working full time now for National Rail Enquiries. I went back to Australia a couple of times. I had a two storey flat above a Chinese restaurant.
I stopped writing novels. I had found a website called AbcTales. I was writing short stories. Quite a few of them got published, in magazines, in short story collections, on websites. I’d never really sent stuff off to big publishers. I didn’t ever think they’d be interested in me.
A couple of years passed. I found that I’d written eight short stories about the same people, a pop group called Down By Law. It made a novel, if you squinted. I sent them off to an agent, just one.
I was surprised when they got back to me. They liked it but wanted me to change the ending and cut down one chapter. The now novel went through eight people at the agency. A year passed. They didn’t take me on.
In this time I split up with my then boyfriend. I moved into a house on my own. I was back to not having a computer. I work for the police and a computer is the kind of luxury you can’t afford - or cars, or holidays, or decent food.
A year later I was checking my emails when I found one was from an American coffee shop. They wanted to buy one of my 50 word stories for a coffee promotion. They asked if I had any more. I wrote loads. I used the money to buy a Mac.
Things started to happen.
A couple of months after that I was sitting at my new computer and I was thinking I should try and send out the Down By Law stories again. I googled literary agent sites. I didn’t have a printer, live near a post office or have a car so I looked for agents who had email addresses. There were five. I emailed them.
A few days later one of them got back to me. She asked to read the rest of my book and then to meet me. She took me on. We made some changes to my book, this time to the beginning. It got a new title, Me and Mickie James. We sold it to a publisher, Jonathan Cape.
That was a year ago. The book is now due to come out. I also have a story on Radio 4 in August, have just written a play for them as well, have also just had an erotic short story published, have another story coming out in Tell Tales 4.
I still get plenty of stuff rejected. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another book published. This could be it.
Or it might not be.
Currently reading - Boys in Heat
Currently listening to - Fink