Cliché no 1: I have always been a writer.
I’ve always told stories; either written down or round the dinner table. At the age of 8 I bought a blank exercise book with the Muppet Babies on the front and decided I wanted to fill it from cover to cover. It was a tough challenge for an 8 year old, and I ripped a few pages out so that filling the book would be easier. But in my head, it looked like a proper novel. (See how I laminated it with selotape?) That’s where my dream to become a published author started.
Cliché no 2: Write a gangster movie
Ask any film studies teacher and they’ll tell you that most first year students want to make a gangster movie. I was no different. Aged 21 I wrote a gangster film about an Australian barman working in England who gets mixed with some East London baddies and a big fat diamond. Essentially I had seen Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and wanted to make something similar. And similar is what I made; derivative, one-dimensional characters, but with moments of originality and sparkle. Which leads me on to my next cliché…
Cliché no 3: Write what you know
I know nothing of East London gangsters, but those mean girls in high school, I do know about. Weirdly, there’s a lot in common with gangster mobs and high school cliques – head bosses/queen bees, all-important reputations, codes of Omerta (I wrote about this subject last year for A Dream of Books ). My latest book – Secrets, Lies & Locker 62 – is about a locked locker where every pupil posts their deep dark secrets, and the girl – Maya – who gets to read them. Okay, so I’ve never found a locker stuffed full of a million pieces of paper with a million secrets and lies written on them. But Maya uses the secrets to get in with the cool people, and she loses sight of herself. The desperate desire to be in the popular crowd was something I experienced myself.
Cliché no 4: Come back to your first love
My first book – Boys For Beginners – was based on another one of my first efforts into writing. Gwynnie Goes Girlie was a story I wrote when I was 10 or 11, about a tomboy who tries to become a girlie girl to impress the new boy at school. Twenty years later I told my agent about the idea and she liked it. I dug out that original manuscript from my parents’ attic and rewrote it… but only a little. So many of the story elements – the Belly Button Club, Gwynnie’s best friend Paul, her widower father – all came from the pencil written first draft. I came back to what I loved, and the childhood wish I had to be a published author was finally fulfilled.
My writing life story is pretty ordinary one: with a little skill, a lot of hard work, and keeping adaptable enough to seize opportunities when they arise, my dream came true. Does that make my tale boring? I hope not. I hope it’s inspiring.
So, my final cliché: Never give up