What’s your story?
I get asked questions about my novels.
Strangers and acquaintances ask, ‘what’s your book about?’
I hate that question, whilst at the same time I’m desperate for people to ask. It is the precursor to having people read my work.
I’m told that my ‘elevator pitch’ needs to be pithy but how does one condense a decade of research and two years of writing into a couple of sentences. Never mind do it well enough to persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash for your work. I suspect most writers believe, as I do, that their novels have layer upon layer of meaning and only by reading them, several times, can they be fully appreciated.
I usually trot out the line that they are about Epistemology, Ethics, the use of force in our society and Zombies. That usually gets a smile and prompts further questioning. It’s at that point I begin to elaborate on the various themes hoping it will pique their interest.
Friends ask a different question.
‘Why did you write them?’
In the beginning my response was nothing but waffle. That was until someone who had asked the question, after listening to my rambling answer, condensed it down into a succinct statement. The answer is I wrote them because I have something to say. Plus, if am honest, it’s because I want to help effect change in our society.
Now that I am involved in the publishing side of the industry, I get asked a new question.
‘How did you write them?’
It is my hope that someday I will have a coherent answer.
I get intimidated when asked about character arcs, plot development and other literary concepts because the truth is, I don’t know how I wrote them. I can only tell you what I did.
But first a digression.
9/11 had a profound effect on me, as I’m sure it did for many. It shook me to the core and shattered my illusion that I knew how the world worked. As an adolescent I watched the news, read newspapers and followed politics. As I moved into adulthood, I thought I understood the world as well, if not better, than the next man.
It took years but eventually I accepted that I knew nothing. So, for over a decade, with no map and a blank slate, I set off on a journey of discovery and absorbed knowledge from anywhere I could. I was fortunate enough to have a wife that supported my efforts and a job that allowed me to have the time.
When I look back at the chasm of my own ignorance it astounds me that I had the arrogance to think I had a handle on how the world worked. The Dunning-Kruger effect, was in full effect.
Today I know what Epistemology is. Before I didn’t even know the word existed. Understanding how we know the difference between justified belief and opinion is crucial to unravelling the complexities of human knowledge.
I now know that history is about more than which King or Queen sat on which throne. It is a teacher and an indicator of events yet to come. Evolution and the role it plays in human psychology is of such profound importance that any attempt to understand the world without this knowledge will make it challenging to say the least.
I also now know that politics is downstream from culture and if you want to make an impact on society it is more effective to be an artist, than a symptomatic politician.
So back to the question, how did I write the books?
The answer is after a decade of being set on receive I flicked the switch to transmit. Sitting in a quiet room, usually until the early hours of the morning, I waited for inspiration and when it came, when I was ‘in the zone’, I wrote. Two years and 400,000 words later I had the trilogy, ‘A Step Ahead of the Fall.’
Sometimes I could sit for hours at the keyboard trying to round off a chapter and write nothing of consequence. Frustration would compel me to leave my solitude. I’d usually head up to the house and moan to my wife about the hardships of writing, whilst making a cup of tea. Then I’d return and bang, within seconds the perfect paragraph would appear in front of me.
I don’t know exactly where it came from. I may never know, but I’m grateful that it was inside me and I was able to get it out. I hope if my work is appreciated, I’ll be able to do it again.