I always knew I’d write a book. It was, in my mind, as inevitable as a visit to New York. I’d get around to it. I didn’t know when, but I would get around to it. And then, one day, last year, totally out of the blue, I got around to it. I had a story I wanted to tell, the inclination and time to write it down and the drive to pack it into several envelopes and send them to various publishing houses. I was just proud that I’d managed that. As far as I was concerned, if this book wasn’t picked up, I’d just write another one and try again. It wasn’t my time yet but it would be. Eventually.
This may all sound pig-headed or arrogant and I apologise if that’s the case. But I am kind of pig-headed. I’d always wanted to be a children’s writer so I knew I would be. I just wouldn’t stop until I was. But I was lucky this time. The book that would eventually be titled ‘Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent’ was picked up by Mercier Press. And, based on the rough outline for a trilogy, they offered me a three-book contract. I was, obviously and in a word, thrilled!
I’d always written a lot; short stories growing up and then short films during my days at the National Film School. I even wrote another children’s novel when I was sixteen (give or take). It was rambling and messy but had a few ideas I still like. It also had a telepathic fish. Naturally. Someone asked me recently if writing ‘Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent’ was a daunting task. And I can honestly say that it wasn’t. I knew I could finish the story – I’d written that length already years ago. Finishing the book – no matter how good or bad it was, no matter if no one ever read it, no matter if every publisher and agent refused it – was success in my mind.
People have asked me for advice and tips over the past few months. I can’t offer anything new here. All that has been written about the art of writing has been. But I can tell you what works for me. Not exactly pearls of wisdom; just how I write. I come up with the story first – usually by going for long walks with my iPod blaring in my ears. I don’t write it down in notebooks. I know that this is contrary to the standard piece of advice. But notebooks, I find, just don’t work for me. As I’m coming up with the plot, I chop and change points so much that a notebook would only be a scrawled, unreadable mass of biro anyway.
However, when I’m sitting down to actually put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard as is the case), I use the Writer’s Best Friend. AKA Post-Its. I like to write a chapter a day when I’m in full swing so I’ll put each plot point for that chapter on a separate Post-It over my desk. The satisfaction of pulling them down as I write that part is immense. And the satisfaction of seeing a bin full of yellow scraps of crunched-up paper is even greater. That’s my book; there in the bin.
And now it’s out there; on the bookshelves all over the country for about a couple weeks now. It feels strange. I’m elated and happy and full of joy, of course. But I’m also at peace. It’s there. My book. I’ve finally done it. Friends and family have read it. But I’ve yet to see a child read it or pick it up. When that happens – on that beautiful day – then I’ll know I’m a writer.