I’ve been asked this question before and, in characteristic Tom-fashion, I bungled the answer. To Emily’s dad, no less. That’s me, always making a sterling impression.
Afterwards (and this isn’t me trying to save face… he says), I realised that may have been because there are multiple answers.
Well, here they are.
I’ve said before that wanting to become a published author has been my dream—my biggest, really—since I was in school. I suppose this is how it started:
My biggest influences growing up were stories (both novels and film) that showed me the fantastic and took me to someplace new, exciting or impossible. Stories like The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien and Jackson), Star Wars, His Dark Materials, anything by Roald Dahl, The Chronicles of Narnia and many, many others.
Another big influence was Christopher Paolini, writer of the Inheritance Cycle, who wrote his first novel, Eragon, when he was fifteen! (OK, it helps when your parents own a small-publishing company… but still. I also didn’t discover this until much later.) Paolini made me realise that if a fifteen-year-old could write a worldwide bestseller, then it was possible for anyone to, so why couldn’t I? (Truthfully, this isn’t a thought I’ve believed as an adult until only recently. Children make the best dreamers, adults the best excuses.)
As a child, I loved escapism. Still do. To sit down, no matter where you are, be it in bed at home, on the train to work, on a beach on holiday, wherever, and be transported to another mind, time or world by twenty-six different shapes and the punctuation between them, that to me, was magic. Still is.
Escapism doesn’t only let you forget the world, it allows you to forget yourself. As a teenager (like many), the ability to do so was a gift. You could forget your homework, your bad grade, your broken heart, whatever. Not only can a book make you forget, it can simultaneously make you wonder.
Eventually it go to the point where I was reading or watching something and I would say to myself, yeah, I want to do that. For a long time I’ve wanted to be able to create my own world and populate with my own characters, to create somewhere new for someone else to lose themselves in. I want to make someone else feel how I felt.
There is real beauty in books, and I want to be a part of it—a bigger part of it.
I can’t remember how long for, but I like using my imagination, be it with paint on canvas or with words on paper (or, rather, on screen). I remember telling a friend in primary school one lunch time about the impossible Star Wars bouncy castle I would have for my birthday party. (I must’ve been seven or eight at the time.) I spent nearly the whole lunch talking, describing in vivid detail what it would be like (it became more of an interactive roller coaster than a bouncy castle) and my friend left without me having taken more than a few bites of my mum-made sandwich. I doubt I even had time to start my Pom-bears that day. (FYI crisps shaped like bears offer endless entertainment for a child with an imagination. They are also delicious.)
I’ve always been a mind-wanderer, too. Imagining myself, or others, or characters I’d created in various scenarios that I would play out in the private screening of my mind. For better or for worse, I’ve never limited my imagination.
As such, since school, I’ve imagined my future as being an author. I’ve never pictured myself doing anything else. (I certainly hope my ability can match my imagination!)
I like to think of myself as a creative person. Often as a child I’d be found sat up at the kitchen table, pencil in hand. Later on, the pencils became watercolours, and then watercolours became acrylics, and so on. When it came to deciding what to study at university it was, that’s right, you guessed it, a choice between Art and English.
Even though my grades were (slightly) better in Art, I didn’t think I was good enough to be successful at it beyond school. Seventeen-year-old me also thought English would be a safer option at uni. I still wanted to create art, though, only with a pen.
4) Dream Job
I quit my job not because I was tired of earning money but because my passion and ambition was in writing. I wanted—still do want, believe me—to be able to earn as a writer, doing something I love. After all, you shouldn’t do something just for the money.
Any time I looked at job adverts, I would think, yeah, that would do until I become an author. Or, if asked at a job interview where I saw myself in five or ten year’s time, I wouldn’t be able to answer honestly, nor give the the answer the interviewers wanted to hear. My honest answer being: I hope to see myself as an author.
As I’ve mentioned before, it got to the point where I realised I would have to start writing sooner or later, I just had to take that initial step, no matter how risky it seemed.
So I’m writing Everborne because I love it, I believe in it, and I want it to shape my future.
For whatever reason, I’ve always thought I would be successful if I could write and publish a book. I don’t know why. Just have. Who wouldn’t like to be successful?
6) To Make My Parents Proud
They would be proud of me whatever I do, I know that. But I would like to make them proud this way.
I hope I can.