Friday, 31 January 2014

On being a writerholic

Recently at work (yep, like most writers I have a day job!) I was asked to write something on 'being a writer'. This is what I produced. Thought I'd share...

Writing isn’t so much a passion with me, it’s more like an addiction. I got hooked on it some years ago and can’t seem to stop. Not content with three books in print, I’m working on two more in my so-called spare time – aka insomnia. I know the exact moment writing fiction changed from being a passing hobby to something more insidious…

In 2001 I moved to Paris for work, and took some writing classes as a way to meet people. I’d already published two textbooks on Human Factors, and I thought to myself, how hard can writing fiction be, you just make it up, right? Just goes to show how wrong I can be! Looking back, it‘s like the difference between playing classical music and jazz; it’s not so simple to switch from one to the other. But I persevered.  

One evening, I was ten chapters into a fledgling novel, and at a writers’ group meeting, when several people started arguing about one of my chapters. Out of interest, it’s a convention when discussing somebody’s work in a writer’s group that the author is not allowed to say anything, on the grounds that if someone is reading a book and doesn’t ‘get it’, they can’t usually speak to the author and ask what he or she meant on page 23... In any case, the discussion went a bit like this: “Blake wouldn’t say that; he’s not that sort of guy!”
“I agree, and as for Louise, I know I fancy her but she really goes too far sometimes, and I’m worried about Micah…”

They treated the characters as if they were real people, as if they knew them personally. I wanted to say: “Relax, they’re just made up”. But I didn’t. I’d created some characters out of nothing, who had got up and walked off the page. They took up residence in my head, and though I’ve killed a few of them off in the past three books, most are still there, demanding I finish the series.

There’s a question writers secretly hate. Feel free to use it if they bug you. Here it is: “What’s your story really about?” (Advanced tip: no matter what the writer says, repeat the question, adding emphasis, e.g. "Yes, but what's it really about?" :-). The answer is what is called a ‘pitch’. Here’s mine. Fifty years from now the world is an environmental and political disaster, and life has become unsustainable. A new habitable planet is discovered, dubbed Eden, but the first two missions to go there fail to return. The Eden Paradox is about the third mission, and it begins with a murder…

It starts off as a thriller, and later on moves more into the science fiction genre. The sequel, Eden’s Trial, is more sci-fi, and the third, Eden’s Revenge is a full-fledged ‘space opera’. Readers tell me they are all page-turners, and very visual, like watching a film. I’m writing the finale now, the fourth book in the ‘trilogy’,  Eden’s Endgame. It really is the end, I promise J  

Are any characters based on any personalities at work? Yes, suitably disguised. Is there any sex in the books? Ahem… next question please. Do my books sell? Mainly in ebook format via Amazon: into four figures each year (5 would be nicer!). Not enough to give up my day job J But I get some very nice 5* reviews. They can’t all be from my mother.

So, why is it an addiction? Well, it eats a lot of my spare time. My Sony comes with me everywhere, even on holiday and, as already mentioned, I get insomnia.  4am is actually an excellent time to write science fiction. And now I’ve gone and started a thriller about scuba diving, as that is my other passion. My writer’s group tell me this is my best writing so far.

I’m doomed.

[P.S> A short story of mine on 'being a writerholic' was published some years ago on Piker Press. You can read it here]


  1. I totally know what you mean! For me the switch happened when I realized that I'd be writing these stories anyway, as might as well try to get them published. Then I found out that I had a ton more to learn to make the transition, but it's been well worth it!

    Keep at it! I'm dying to read your next novel!

    1. You keep at it too, Mike, more Blood Siren please!


© Barry Kirwan |
website by digitalplot