Like most authors, I’ve often been asked how I write and less frequently where I write but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked why I write. And, as I wrestle with this question, I also wonder whether those reasons are even important?
In my case, I think (I can’t be certain) that it boils down to three key elements: a compulsion to write, a desire to communicate and a willingness to share something immensely personal with strangers.
The first component is easy to explain. I have to write. I need to write. There’ll be a whole series of ideas for my next story, jostling for position inside my head, but one of them will end up on top and refuse to be toppled. It will wave at me from the top of the pile. It will keep on worrying me, like a piece of grit in my eye, until I have to surrender and begin to write it down.
On top of that, writing is the way I process information and it’s how I make sense of the world. It always has been, since I was a girl and I wrote diaries, stories, plays, poems and lots of protest essays. If there was something in the world which my 9-year-old self considered unjust or unfair then I was going to set it down on a piece of paper, often accompanied by drawings of people with angry faces.
But to be successful, writers also have to want to communicate with others. We don’t write for ourselves, so we must be prepared to write in a way which other people can understand and (let’s hope) enjoy. This has never been a problem for me. As the youngest of three sisters by quite a few years, I spent my childhood struggling to be heard, determined to converse with others and gain legitimacy by having them listen and respond and I always loved to entertain. Growing up in Yorkshire, where everyone engages complete strangers in conversation at the slightest opportunity, probably also helped. Then, twenty years as a lawyer honed my ability to engage with people on a variety of levels and gave me great pleasure too.
But sharing the private stuff is not easy. And this is the area where I think writers’ motivation becomes important. Because our stories are personal in so many ways. They may be based on our own experiences or those of someone we know, be set in our hometown or a place we love to visit or cover themes we care about. And the characters which people the pages of our books may share our traits or voice our views. Then comes the dilemma for all writers. If we distance ourselves from our stories, in order to preserve at least a modicum of privacy, then they often lack authenticity and heart and may fail to connect with our readers. But when we share those kinds of stories, we share our souls.
My courtroom dramas feature the unlikely pairing of acid-tongued, experienced criminal barrister Judith Burton and cautious, determined and much younger criminal solicitor Constance Lamb, defending suspects on an array of serious charges (one case per book). In penning the series, clearly, I’ve drawn on my legal experience and (I’m often asked this one) my two main protagonists are an amalgamation of the many dedicated lawyers with whom I have been privileged to work. But it’s with the themes I explore, each time, that I give myself away. Lie detecting software, robots dispensing medicine, driverless cars, cameras in our courts and, in my latest thriller, The Midas Game, online gaming in all its glory.
In the summer of 2018, my youngest son, then 14 years old, and all his friends, were playing an online game called Fortnite for hours at a time. It’s a last-man standing shooter game with cartoonish avatars and it spawned a crazy dance. At one time, 80 million people were playing it and it made its manufacturers more than $5.5bn.
That same summer, the World Health Organisation classified ‘gaming disorder’ as an illness. Whilst it was accepted that only a small proportion of people who game will develop gaming disorder, its symptoms were serious enough and the evidence from international, multi-disciplinary experts sufficiently persuasive for this important step to be taken.
This information, on top of my own experience of the challenges of managing a teenager who wanted to game for longer than I felt was healthy, was the spark for psychiatrist Dr Liz Sullivan and celebrity gamer JD Dodds’ story, which marinaded for two years or so, until I wrote it down, through the summer and autumn of 2020. And I tried very hard, with my array of quirky characters, to be even-handed, as I snatched an hour here or there to write, around my new lockdown roles of hairdresser, cook, cleaner, exercise monitor and general counsellor and motivator.
So why did I write The Midas Game? Because I had to tell this story, because I wanted readers to know what I know now about the thrills and dangers of online gaming and because the topic was so important that I was prepared to share something personal, really personal, with my readers.
(c) Abi Silver
The Midas Game by Abi Silver is published by Eye and Lightning Books in paperback original.
About The Midas Game:
Was virtual killing just the beginning?
When eminent psychiatrist Dr Liz Sullivan is found dead in her bed, suspicion falls on local gamer and YouTube celebrity Jaden ‘JD’ Dodds.
Did he target her because of her anti-gaming views and the work she undertook to expose the dangers of playing online games? And what was her connection with Valiant, an independent game manufacturer about to hit the big time, and its volatile boss?
Judith Burton and Constance Lamb team up once more to defend JD when no one else is on his side.
But just because he makes a living killing people on screen doesn’t mean he’d do it in real life. Or does it?
Order your copy online here.