Fiction’s important. Why did we go to the moon? Because people like Jules Verne invented fantasies asking, “What if?” Show me a strong reader and I’ll show you someone who can think outside themselves, explore strange ideas and consider disparate points of view. Without fiction, all we have is the ground beneath our feet.
“I love planning a story,” said no one, ever.
I once read part of an article on ‘how to write a novel’ and I couldn’t even finish it. I just write, when I’m ready, for hours or days at a time, then maybe nothing for weeks. Joy when writing is reflected in joy when reading.
Three years and six months.
My debut novel, Hawk’s Cross, took three years to write and the sequel, coming soon, less than six months. Why? A flash of inspiration while writing Hawk’s Cross had me forgetting about the story and focusing on the characters; “What would ‘n’ do now?” In life, we have a vague idea of what we’d like and that idea morphs into our life story from our experiences and interactions. For fiction to be authentic it needs to emulate life, minus the boring stuff.
Neither of me has a split personality.
Writing this way means ‘knowing’ my characters but knowing them and making them ‘real’ means that at least part of me needs to be in each one. Writing’s taught me a lot about myself.
“A homeless man, a stripper and a psychopath walk into a hotel bar…”
Years ago, at a business conference with a friend discussing how easy it would be to scrounge a free lunch from a hotel, I wondered just how much we could get for free if we used our ingenuity. It was this conversation that eventually spawned the birth of Matthew Hawk, the main protagonist in the novel.
What makes us special?
We’re at our best when things are worst. Give people a comfortable life and they’ll argue about garden fences and which kid deserves to win which trophy. During a disaster, those same people will risk their own safety to help their neighbours. Sometimes we need a slap in the face to wake us up and that’s part of what I wanted Hawk’s Cross to be.
Refined by fire.
How would Matthew Hawk react if he was forced to confront his deepest fears? Well, let’s stick him in a pot and add some heat. The life and works of Viktor Frankl had a strong influence on the younger me and I wanted that to be the foundation for Hawk’s Cross. Life is a string of choices.
One book, two books, three books, more?
I loved writing Hawk’s Cross but it needed a sequel; just one. Then, it really could do with being a trilogy. I’ll definitely stop at three though. Probably.
As a crewman for the local lifeboat and owner of my own business, most of my colleagues needed convincing that I’d written a book. I’d like to think it was because of my robust sense of humour and not because they thought I should be given nothing sharper than a wax crayon.
Hawk’s Cross by David Collenette is out now.