I was a late starter, for sure. I never wrote a word of fiction between the ages of about 16 and 33, and the only reason I began was because the idea that I had had – which would eventually turn into A Mighty Dawn – kept growing and growing until I felt I owed it to the idea and to myself to give it a go. It has to be said, beginning a writing career with an epic historical fantasy novel is either the most hubristic or the most foolish thing I’ve ever done. Probably both…
However, as to writing in general and the written word, I have always loved it. In my late twenties, writing tended to be either about the law or debating points of religion and philosophy. But there was perhaps more of a hint of a true calling at the tail end of my legal career. I had a wonderful boss in Hong Kong who was determined to develop my business skills – a vain endeavour – and who couldn’t stand that every question she asked of me, I answered with what she called “walls of beautiful text”. She wanted slides and bullet points. Inevitably, we parted company – I, to go and build my beautiful walls; she, to save the world.
By then I had the basic premise for A Mighty Dawn. So I began my first faltering attempts at writing fiction in the coffeehouses of Hong Kong. Most of what I wrote hasn’t made the final edit but it all served as back story in my mind and gave me some experience of putting together a scene and developing characters. It was mostly overwritten and too dense. But at least I was doing it. Actually putting words on paper. (Which always helps when you want to become a writer.)
Meanwhile, I had quit my job in the law and decided to embark on another rather vast undertaking – to ride a bicycle solo from Hong Kong to England. This 10,000-odd mile journey is another story, but it is worth mentioning because it gave me (aside from a sore backside) immense opportunity to write about my travels and experiences and put that writing out for public consumption. Happily enough, people seemed to respond well to what I wrote – but perhaps more significantly, I discovered I absolutely loved the process of writing.
So when at last – in June 2012 – I took up the reins of my novel again, I had far more confidence in myself as a writer. Yes, it was unknown territory (this time into my inner world) – but I was excited rather than overwhelmed by that. Which is fortunate, since it took another four and a half years of graft before my efforts got anywhere near a bookshelf.