When someone handed me a copy of Hand to Mouth by Paul Auster back in 1998, it sparked a long-forgotten memory in me – I loved to write.
You see, once upon a time I entertained the desire to be a journalist but the flame burned out when I hit High School. Any literary desire I had was replaced by wanting to be the number one class clown. These days, I look back fondly and ponder how much I may have achieved as a clown had I stuck at it as a career choice.
A few weeks before my High School career was due to draw to a close, my life as wannabee clown had not been without varying degrees of success, but mostly it was a complete failure. I was also faced with the harsh reality that most of my friends had nailed down a serious job or a place at college or university.
I remember vividly the day my father came into my bedroom and offered me a choice: “Start applying for college courses,” he said. “Or I’m taking you down to the building site first thing on Monday morning.”
It wasn’t a tough choice.
Unfortunately there were no clown colleges taking on new recruits in the Paisley/Glasgow area at the time, so I plumped for an I.T. course at the Paisley College of Technology as it was known back then.
During my four years in Storie Street and surrounding pubs, I lost the vision of writing entirely; my life taken up with lectures and seminars about semi-conductors and network topologies – very exciting stuff. I found a good job at the end of it though, and began working in the I.T. department of a life assurance company in Glasgow and then later in Edinburgh. Somewhere in amongst these two cities, I managed to pen my first story.
The Nutty Boys was a dreadful attempt at a humorous novel. It was really more of a diary but it proved to me that the writing spark had never fully been extinguished; if I had it in me to sit down and write over 40,000 words while working a day job, then surely I could do more? And better?
So when I read Hand to Mouth not long after moving to Edinburgh, it was like turning up the knob on a gas fire and watching the flames fill the mantle; the heat literally rose up inside me and the passion was rekindled.
I enrolled in a creative writing course at the Open College of the Arts and immersed myself in poetry and short story writing. I loved it. I wrote and wrote and wrote, joined some internet forums, met a load of people, and finally in May 2004 I had my first acceptance, a short story entitled, Once a Borderer. Four months later I sold my first novel: Hunting Jack was published as a serial and things were suddenly moving.
Since then I’ve published two novels, three novellas, six chapbooks of poetry, and numerous short fiction stories online and in print. Not bad, I hear you say, but hold on. There’s a catch. By December 2011 I’d stopped writing. My marriage was falling apart and my job had become a monumental pain in the arse, and it was another four years before things got back on track.
It was an interesting four years though, not all doom and gloom. I did a lot of travelling, moved into the perfect flat by the water in Leith, went to a shed-load of gigs (73 in 2014 alone), and met the woman of my dreams; my true love.
So as I come to write this short biography, I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I’ve recently begun to write once more. Short steps, big goals.
Life is very good these days, and I still like being the clown.