Why I Write
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Ok, that was Dickens beginning the tale of David Copperfield, but stay with me here because there is a tale to be told: a story of a miserable childhood, a poor kid made good and a future that might just have a three book deal with Harper Collins written into it (a girl can dream).
Point The First
I am born. Well, every story has a beginning and this was mine. We lived in a sub-scheme of Easterhouse in Glasgow called Queenslie. If you have never heard of Easterhouse try to imagine a place where hope goes to die and you’ll begin to get the picture. I went to the local Primary school and pretty soon discovered that I was a bit ‘different’ from the other kids and this was, in my eyes, A Good Thing. I felt no kinship with anybody else in my neighbourhood. I did better at school than any of them, I didn’t swear, run about in gangs beating other kids up, stealing and generally causing havoc. Why would I ever want to have anything in common with these people? I was beaten up and bullied on a daily basis. In fact, I felt so displaced as a child that I firmly believed my parents were aliens who had left me behind on a scouting mission to Earth. They would be back for me some day. I’m still waiting.
This brings me to –
Point The Second
I have always had a vivid imagination. I was an only child with no friends and lived with my mum, dad and gran. My mum was the youngest of nine children, my cousins were all a generation older than me and I was constantly in the presence of adults. There was no one with whom I could play many of the usual childhood games – my parents never played board games with me and any friendships with kids my own age didn’t last long after the abuse I was subjected to on a daily basis started to be targeted at them too. So, I turned to books.
Point The Third
My gran taught me to read before I went to school. She was at home all day every day and we were very close. I don’t remember there being many books around at that age, but there must have been a few for her to use in her lessons.
Point The Fourth
We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. My dad often worked two jobs to bring in money, but they were never high paying and there was never much extra to use for indulgences like books. Don’t get me wrong: I had pocket money every week – a shilling, usually 12 pennies (showing my age here) – and I got books at Christmas and birthdays, but I was a more voracious reader than my pocket money supported.
Point The Fifth
My mother has OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her mother, my gran, was very old-fashioned and had some odd ideas about life and this contributed in no small part to my mum’s problems. Gran used to cover mirrors and pictures and close the curtains in a thunderstorm in case we saw the image of the Devil reflected there.
I was never allowed to do loads of ‘normal’ things as a kid because of my mum’s obsessions, the main one of which was germs and their avoidance. I wasn’t allowed to learn how to swim – public pools were just a cess pit of infection and besides, what if I drowned? And as for library books to alleviate the distinct lack of reading material at home….
Point The Sixth
So, if I had no money to buy books, wasn’t allowed to use the library ‘in case of germs’ and had a vivid imagination of my own the only possible outcome was to write my own. And I did.
I began by writing the most morbid, death obsessed poetry you could imagine – I was the original Emo kid – and progressed until my books must have been, ooh, at least 3 pages long. Yes, I was obviously the next Margaret Mitchell.
Point The Seventh
Of course, being a writer wasn’t anything you told other people about, not even your parents. They would only tell you that it wasn’t a ‘proper job’ and my future had already been mapped out for me by mum, dad and my school’s head teacher who always believed I could do better for myself that live in Easterhouse all my life. At one point she tried to persude my parents to apply for a grant to send me to a fee paying private school where I would get a better education than she could offer at Queenslie Primary. I am eternally grateful to her for trying and for my dad having the sense to say no. If I was bullied where I was, going to a posh school with no money could only have raised it to another dimension.
It was decided for me that I would go to University and become a teacher and this seemed a fair enough plan until I reached Secondary school where the careers advisor told me there were too many teachers and I should consider an alternative. Around this time Anne of green Gables was on TV, so I decided I would become a journalist, just like Anne.
Point The Eighth
Then I had the Worst Idea Ever.
I went on a geography field trip to Robin Hood Bay in Yorkshire with a few other kids from school. One of the older girls there mentioned in passing that she wanted to be a psychiatrist, but that involved being a doctor first and she wasn’t smart enough for that. But she could be a psychologist which, she knew, was just the same apart from the not being able to write prescriptions part.
Can you see the wee light bulb glowing above my stupid head at this point? Because, I can assure you, it was glowing brightly enough to outshine the Blackpool Illuminations.
I could be an almost doctor and put people’s lives to right just by asking the right questions in an authoritative manner. Perhaps this is the point I should mention in passing my tendencies towards megalomania and ‘Always Knowing Best’, but let’s not dwell on that issue here.
So, I went to Glasgow University in September 1979 and began my study of psychology only to realise after two or three weeks that psychology was an imprecise science. Doctor A conducted his experiments that proved beyond doubt that Nature triumphed over Nurture. At the same time, Professor B proved the exact opposite with his work. How could I possibly justify meddling in some poor soul’s life with no solid scientific backing?
I was left in limbo.
Point The Ninth
I graduated from University in 1982 and joined the throng of the unemployed and unemployable. I had no experience to help me get a proper job and the casual posts all felt I was over qualified. The Eighties was not a happy time.
I needed to find a career that had a future and at that time it was the entertainment industry or computing. I could neither sing nor dance so applied to do a postgraduate diploma in Systems Analysis & Design at Napier College in Edinburgh and applied to the Civil Service. A week before my course started I heard from National Saving Bank in Glasgow who would pay me to learn to be a computer programmer. Result!
Thing is, I hated computers.
Nevertheless, I spent 15 years working in IT in various roles and for various companies, branching out into Quality Assurance along the way. I got married, had a baby and gave up work to be a full-time mum, but I never really stopped writing. Just when my daughter got old enough for me to consider going out to work again I started to get ill and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia over two years ago.
So there I was, too ill to work but with a brain that still (sometimes) functioned normally…
Point The Tenth
… so I started to write in earnest. Since then I have had several short stories and articles published in a variety of magazines and have co-won a crime writing competition in the writing group I set up with Jacky Fowler. I am working on a novel – a crime fiction – about a Glasgow journalist who finds his past catching up with him when a young child is abducted from a domestic garden – and have the next two books in the series planned (remember the three book deal dream at the start?). I cannot write romance to save my life – it seems all false and clichéd to me and I am unable to do it justice. I write about people who always end up being Glaswegian, even if only in my head; about people whose past hides secrets; of people who are displaced, emotionally or physically. I write about what makes people behave in a particular way and am still fascinated by the workings of the mind.
There are even a few science fictions tales lurking away, jostling in the queue of untold stories which fight for space in my mind. Perhaps one will be about a young creature who was left behind on a scouting mission to a faraway planet.
Or maybe I’ll leave my autobiography for another time.