My first proper poem was inspired by Pagan aspirations and the misunderstanding of spirituality. Oh, I’d written acrostics based on my family’s names before, but this was something different. After a trudge through the country, I scribbled the three or four stanzas on a quartered A4 sheet leant up against a bus shelter wall with a chewed biro. It was an admittedly primitive effort, titled ‘Gaia’, with a repeating rhyme and an adolescent grasp on the complexities of socio-political ideas and environmental issues. But it was mine. That opened up the Pandora’s Box of my poetry. While I’d won a primary school writing competition for my letter addressed to Tutankhamen and penned a few sci-fi short stories pinching ideas from Star Trek, it wasn’t until I was around fourteen that I knew I wanted to be a lifer.
Along with a fervent increase in my poetry output, I started penning a fantasy novel. It began life as a way to fill up the lonely months of the summer holiday. And fill them it did. While I’m proud that I managed to write a narrative of novel length, with chapters, arcs and a distinct beginning, middle and end, reading it back is an embarrassing affair. I wrote another two novels before I was 18, but this was around the time that pretension set in. I shunned my love of heavy metal, anime, sci-fi and fantasy. Instead I read only literature, watched only art house movies, and listened to music that fell under the avant garde banner. I’ve since learned the error of my ways and pulled a geeky U-turn, but I must have been an insufferable tool. Anyway, those two novels were strange crime efforts channelling my great literature heroes Charles Bukowski and Iain Banks, and a smattering of the psychosexual weirdness of Clive Barker. It was trash, to be sure, but it was my trash.
I wasn’t interested in much beyond music, film and poetry by the time it came to pondering the future. University didn’t interest me all that much, but it seemed like the only option to nurture a writing career. How wrong I was. If I were to live through the same decision, I would have picked an apprenticeship or internship and bypassed those money-draining years altogether. But the friendships formed, opportunities discovered, and plaudits earned while away any regrets.
It wasn’t until my third year that I had any idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life. It was a close friend who sparked an epiphany. I wanted to write for magazines for a living. The digital advent have taken a toll on print-based journalism, but this is a brave new world, and pockets can be lined with this online lark. At first my efforts were music-focused, but as I gradually reintroduced my old loves into my life, my focus shifted to genre novels, sci-fi cinema and comic books.
The way to a magazine career is paved with free work. I’d contributed work to several of my lecturers’ own magazines, and published poems in various online pockets. But it was writing for an online magazine (thank you, Kristina) where I first had any real semblance of deadlines, the industry and writing for a specific audience. While I was writing about music, I penned a few pieces about Star Trek and managed to use these to start contributing to Starburst magazine. Eighteen months later, I’m a lead writer with a monthly column.
Of course, I wouldn’t dream of resting on my laurels, and I’ve used my work with Starburst to smuggle my work into various other platforms. This has included reviews in several popular magazines, paid reviews for online streaming sites and writing copy for all sorts of companies. It’s frustrating, and the pay slips are few and far between, but it’s my little triumph. I still scribble away at a few novels, too, just in case my childhood dream of becoming a published novelist ever does come to fruition.