How it all began. An author’s tale.

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.

What is your author origin story? (Or make one up.)

Where to begin? I’m a child of the 1950s, born and bred in Brixham, South Devon, which back then was a fantastic place to grow up. As long as we were home for tea, or when it got dark, my childhood friends and I were left to ourselves and used to roam the fields, cliffs and beaches having adventures and trying to be good when adults were around.

All that changed when I was on the cusp of my teens, my father moved us all to London when he got a different job. Tottenham in the early 1970s and Drayton Comprehensive School was a shock, as was moving twice more when things didn’t work out for us on the Seven Sisters Road. I eventually ended up living in Maidstone, Kent. Because I kept changing schools and counties, I missed quite a lot of the curriculum in all the upheaval. Teachers telling me I was stupid and obviously hadn’t paid attention didn’t help. I lost interest in education and left school with no qualifications in 1974. Looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

After I left school, I worked for a supermarket stacking shelves but always felt I wanted to travel. After assistance from the only teacher who had believed in me, I managed to study and pass the four ‘O’ levels I needed to get a job at sea as an apprentice Navigator. My first trip was on an 80,000-tonne oil tanker. That nearly sank, when a pipe burst and the engine room flooded! We ended up getting towed across the Atlantic to safety.

Despite that, I stuck with the job and passed all my exams, ending up as a Master Mariner, with a B.Sc. in Nautical Science. I also found the time to get married and have three daughters. When my children were small, I got fed up with the four or five-month trips, so I came ashore. I worked in several places before getting my dream job, as a River Thames Pilot, taking every kind of ship up and down the river, including through Tower Bridge, the Thames Barrier and even the muddy wilds of Barking Creek.

After a shoulder problem stopped me from climbing pilot ladders, I took early retirement. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned writing yet. That’s because, at this point, I hadn’t had the dream.

In my time at sea, I travelled a lot, around Cape Horn, 600 miles up the river Amazon and all around the world. I had adventures, like sneaking a ship out of Gdynia in Poland in 1981, during the Solidarity protests and under the noses of the Russian troopships anchored off the harbour, to being on a jumbo jet that crash-landed. Perhaps my most exciting memory is of having to don a fire suit and breathing apparatus and put out a fire in a ship’s engine room, rescuing a trapped engineer in the process. I’ve been shot at (twice), sailed through some rough seas, smelt Sandalwood on the breeze at 3 a.m., sewn up cuts and given injections. I guess that there are not many jobs with those activities as part of daily life. I suspect that my mind was storing up memories to help me write when the time came. Plus, with time on my hands, I managed to read a lot. Ships libraries have an incredible diversity of books.

At last, we mention writing. I had a dream, one that kept repeating. I wrote it down hoping that would make it go away. It did, only to be replaced by another one. In the end, I realised that the dreams were connected, they concerned a man like I had been; a trader and carrier of cargo. The difference was that he was doing it in space.  He was called Dave Travise.

My first book, Freefall was the start of his story. As fast as I wrote, more stories appeared.

My next novel, Andorra Pett and the Luna Mining Conspiracy, will be my twentieth. As well as that, I’ve written three books of short stories and a textbook, plus pieces that have been featured in several anthologies. In a strange twist, one of my novels, Life and Other Dreams, is the story of a man who had repeating dreams.

I have little control over what I write, anyone who knows me will tell you that I always hated writing, whether it was schoolwork, letters home or official reports. So, to suddenly find myself writing half a million words a year is very out of character. I can only explain it by telling you that it’s not me thinking this all up. I’m just the conduit.

I get an idea, it might be prompted by something I read or see, it could be a conversation I overhear in a coffee shop. Next, I see a film of the story playing in my head and just copy down what occurs. I can rewind and slow the action down, but I can never fast-forward. I see the end (or the twist), at the same time as a reader will. I don’t have to work out the plot or do anything strenuous; it’s all done for me. Where it comes from, I have no idea.

This might explain why I ended up writing stories in various genres. As well as the Space Opera series, I have written Steampunk, Cozy Crime and Fantasy. As well as several psychological thrillers. 

Until next time.

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8 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    Wow, a touch of the paranormal here, Richard, with all the dreams! Reading through your fascinating tale, I can imagine how you would prefer Brixham to the Seven Sisters Road!

    • Richard Dee

      Yeah, it was a fascinating place in 1970 but there was no beach.

    • Richard Dee

      I sometimes lament the fact that you can’t go back and see where the other road led.

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