I never wanted to be a writer. No, strike that. I never wanted to be an author. The list of stories I started and never did anything with would take six years to go through. I always wrote, always imagined. To this day I put myself to sleep at night with some random story that's rattling around in my head. But that's all it was. A way to kill time when I didn't have anything else to entertain me. A way to escape.
I can tell you the exact moment that changed, but it's not when I started writing seriously.
High School Freshmen English was strange. Unlike all the middle school English classes we'd had, our new teacher expected something different out of us. We read books a lot of people say they didn't read until college (Inherit the Wind is still probably my favorite) and learned how to write an essay and understand a poem in iambic pentameter. And then she asked us to write. At least five pages, a real story with a beginning, middle, and end. If we wanted to make it fiction that was fine with her.
Most of the people in my class wrote about the big summer vacation they'd taken with their family when they were six, or last years karate championship, or how they felt when their child-hood dog died. None of that felt big enough for me, and she'd said we could write fiction. So I did, and it was more like ten pages instead of five, and by the end of that ten pages I'd been stranded in a snowbound car in winter all alone (I don't remember where my parents were) and rescued by a fireman I still saw every summer. When she talked to me about my paper she was horrified she'd never heard of this happening--it was a small town and secrets were hard to keep--and I stared at her blankly for a good minute of gushing before I managed a tentative 'you said fiction was alright'. And then somehow I was signed up for her Creative Writing class the next year.
I wasn't exactly a success at it. I didn't write poems that got published, or join the school newspaper. I didn't start attending poetry readings in the nearest city or shift all my life goals. Poetry meant something to me, and books meant something to me, and writing was fun. End of story.
Sometime I'll tell you about the moment I realized I could actually write a book.
So... About that new book. It's not mine, although their is one of those about three-quarters through the first draft that's kicking my butt today. It's The Cuckoos Calling by Robert Galbraith (who, if you happen to own internets and exist on social media you probably know is J K Rowling). I'm not far enough into it I can tell you what I think. It's brilliant so far, and I'm sure given it's her it'll be brilliant all the way through. And all of this despite, if A Casual Vacancy is anything to go by, how much I hate at least one of the characters.
I'm not sure how I feel about her failed attempt at a pen name. Obviously I see the point. That sort of pressure's got to be spectacularly uncomfortable at the best of times. Like winning an Academy Award for your debut film. Where do you go after that? I can't help wondering certain things though. Did her publisher know? If they did and still didn't try and press the book more I can't imagine what they were thinking, and if they didn't they've got to be annoyed--as much as they can be once they've been handed a golden goose.
I hope there are more books, and I hope they all turn out to be wonderful. I don't care what name she writes under, but I do sort of feel like I'd have rather found Robert Galbraith all on his own. Because privacy means something, even when it's unrealistic.