The title of this piece is a quote from the late, great American brainy bugger Gore Vidal. I’m not sure how seriously I actually believe it, but a little pang of…something…went through me yesterday when a friend contacted me to tell me that a novel he’d written (and that I was lucky enough to read in manuscript form) was now fully completed and ‘out there’. So, before we go further – check out ‘The Ironlane Detective’ by Paul Witham. Congratulations Paul – you deserve it and I wish you many sales and the beers will be on you!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m lucky to know a lot of very creative people – film makers, craftspeople, writers, musicians, software developers, radio presenters, gardeners, woodworkers, painters, actors, comedians – and I love hearing from them as to how they’re getting on. It’s just that….well….I don’t seem to have the knack myself. I have the odd creative splurge every now and again, but it never seems to blossom in to the creative outpourings that many people I know achieve. Which is odd because in my 20s I turned out books by the box full and articles for the technical press by the dozen – of course, that was in those glorious, pre-Internet days when there were definitely fewer distractions for those of us with butterfly minds!
I think that that is my problem – focus! I know that when I do set my mind to something I can get it done. I’m often reminded of Dr Johnson’s comment “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” with regard to my way of managing myself. I need to be prodded!
Joe, I’m going to tell you something that no-one else knows. It’s just between you and me. When I started writing ‘The Ironlane Detective’ I was at Granville College, and the year was 1978. The original opening scenario was drawn on A2 sized paper as a cartoon strip. I wanted to be a Marvel-style comic artist at that time. I had no idea what I was doing.
The idea was that an innocent man was suckered into releasing an alien from imprisonment and was therefore drawn into whatever madness followed. The alien had been imprisoned for the purpose of drawing forth from the surrounding community a fellow who had peculiar skills. These skills could save a whole world, but they were incredibly rare, and the alien was the bait.
I spent, on and off, twelve years writing this work. I wanted it to be character-driven more than anything else, because all the quality fiction comes from that corner. You have to have characters, and you have to have conflict between them. If you don’t have that in your novel, then all the ideas and plot devices in the world aren’t going to pull it together for you. It’s the friction that makes it.
As for the writing process itself. After a while – so it seemed to me – the thing seemed to write itself. I don’t say this frivolously. I honestly can’t understand how a person with my background was able to pull it off.
Cheers, Joe, you’re a good egg.