July 19th, 2016

Finally Feel Like a Writer

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I was slow to talk, and slow to read. I started school at five, and it was only then I began to string words together. By seven most of my friends were reading. I wasn’t. I felt embarrassed and stupid.

When I was eight we went on a family holiday to France. More in hope than expectation my father bought me a book, The Mouse Sheriff by Janosch. I still don’t know who Janosch is, but I loved that book. Something in me changed when I realized I, too, could read. The Mouse Sheriff hooked me for life.

My teenage years were spent with my head stuck in a book. My room was littered with notebooks outlining my own stories, and my school essays could run to thirty pages or more. An understanding English teacher indulged me by excusing me from homework as long as I continued to produce more essays. He could see a spark in me, and he gently blew it to life.

I fought against it. I did my best to be anything but a writer. My degree was in physics, specialising in matters nuclear. But even as I wrestled with protons and photons, part of me was plotting and outlining. I wrote a dreadful coming of age novel which thankfully was lost in a house move.

There not being much of a call for nuclear physicists my locality, I joined the local paper. Luckily my decade as a newshound corresponded with a violent drugs war in my city, and I got my first book deal. Family Feud came out just before Christmas, 2002, and was the best selling book that season. I had a Christmas Number One!

I still didn’t feel like a writer. It was only extended journalism.

I retired from the newspaper not to write, but to become a professional magician. In my spare time I continued to churn out books about true crime, public speaking, magic – anything I could persuade a publisher to bring out. It was a hobby, and not a profitable one. And I still didn’t feel like a writer.

Then the recession hit, and I was broke. The only way out of my difficulties was a best seller. I conceived the idea while performing one Easter at a stone-age fort in the west of Ireland. Between shows I would run behind the fortifications and squat down out of sight, notebook in hand. At the end of the day I had the detailed plot of The Gilli Gilli Man.

Haven’t heard of it? Of course not. It wasn’t a best seller. To date it has failed to find a publisher. But it did get me a wonderful agent, and the following year five books came out. I was delighted. But I still didn’t feel like a writer.

Then Isabel got in touch to say she was having lunch with a small British publisher. Did I have any ideas to pitch? Well yes, I did. Time to take another crack at fiction. When they said yes I was over the moon. The story just flowed. The actual writing took just five weeks, and it was a wonderful escape from a traumatic period in my life. Both my parents died during the time between agreement and publication. I never got to show them the book. But I still got a huge thrill one afternoon when I came home and a neighbour tossed me a box, telling me the postman couldn’t squeeze it through my letter box. Ten complimentary copies of Dead or Alive! Holding the paperback in my hands I finally felt it – I was a writer.

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Dead or Alive is on special offer all this week. The kindle version is just 0.99. http://mybook.to/DorAliveDC

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by Anthony Galvin

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