Thanks to all of you who took the time to read Craig’s guest post last week: I’m sure you weren’t disappointed! Here you can find the rest of what Craig has to say about his journey to becoming an author with Inspired Quill:
At some point in this process, somewhere around the start of Haven, I had the funkiest cheese-induced nightmare of my life to date. It rattled me. I woke in the dark feeling utterly weird and a little sick, and immediately grabbed for a pen and paper. Sat in the dark, using the screen of my mobile phone as a light, I doodled, scribbled, put lots of question marks and eventually stopped to look at what I’d done. An image of an ancient sewer system, a group of deformed misfits walked the dark passageways, slurry and stench all around them, and the biggest of the group was carrying something. A machine. Something like a sarcophagus made of brass, filled with a strange blue fluid that gave off its own light, and there was a girl inside.
That dream had such a profound effect that I toyed with it for quite some time. Who were they? Why were they in the sewer? And who was the girl trapped in the strange contraption? It became a bit of a favourite obsession, trying to figure out how those characters could have ever got into such an odd situation. And, over the years, that cheese-dream became Greaveburn.
When I started to write Greaveburn, maybe four years ago, I still had a lot to learn. Hell, I still do. But there was something in that idea that I couldn’t put down. It was a nagging, gnawing, incredibly annoying idea that kept haunting me. Writing that novel has been the longest exorcism performed in human history. But, eventually, it was done. I took creative writing courses, finished my degree in Nursing, started another in English, fell in and out of love a couple of times, ate, slept, played too many video games and read even more books, and throughout all that, Greaveburn was a constant presence.
At some point, I broke out into short stories, got my first few publications and nearly passed out from excitement. Someone somewhere was liking what I was doing. That was a novel (excuse the pun) concept that I’d never considered. What if people actually enjoyed reading my junk? My new goal seemed clear. Now, it wasn’t just to write. It had evolved but was still blindingly simple:
Get a book on a shelf.
That is, any shelf, any shop, even my own study. But book and shelf had to happen. And I thought I knew exactly how to do that. Finish Greaveburn. Make it awesome. Get it published.
Oh so simple, and oh so hard.
But five drafts later, Greaveburn was done. Finished. And the pile of paper sat on my desk, looking back at me.
“Well? Now what do we do?” It seemed to ask.
Well, I had no idea. And so I went back to my reference books. I made lists. I used Post-its and white boards and dry wipe markers. And eventually I had a plan. Greaveburn was hitting the road. I took the first few chapters, packed them some sandwiches into a hanky on a stick and booted it out the door, telling it not to come back without an acceptance in its pocket.
It came back.
The rejection slips seemed to come through the letter box in flurries. I had to stand a shovel by the door just so I could get by. Over the course of a year or so, Greaveburn hit more desks than was decent and bounced back from an equal number. I was getting exasperated and downtrodden. To soothe myself, I put together my short stories into a collection and made them work the streets in the form of Not Before Bed. That passed the time and the feedback helped to stop myself from checking the light fittings for tensile strength. But in the end, there seemed no hope. As with anyone in these kind of life-changing dilemmas, I went to Twitter and pleaded for help from all the lovely people there. And, blow me! I got a message from a publisher by the name of Inspired Quill who were open for submissions. I’m surprised the paper didn’t combust with the speed I packed those three chapters into an envelope and sent them off. Something felt just a little different about this one. I told myself that this would be the last time I sent Greaveburn out. The very last. I had other projects to work on, ones that might fare better in the publishing world. I would concentrate on them and chalk Greaveburn up to experience.
That is, until the damned thing came back with a lovely little letter saying that Inspired Quill wanted to read the rest. All of it. This was the furthest I’d ever got. My faith in humanity was reaffirmed. And, luck of all luck, IQ liked it. Someone had read my novel and thought it was pretty damn good, thankyaverymuch.
Not even my excessive verbosity can describe the sounds I made that day. They were bestial, there was elated cursing, and all in a Yorkshire accent. Not pretty, my friends, not pretty at all. But I’d done it.
Muchos thanks to whatever Gods were on duty that day.
Queue sitting back in my smoking jacket and swirling sherry while making egotistical fnar fnar noises.
That was November last year, fourteen years after I first put pen to paper, four years after I started writing in any earnest. A long, hard, uphill slog. And it’s been bloody fantastic; the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
But that’s all irrelevant. A warm up. A starter for ten.
Now the work really starts. Greaveburn (my own book! A-woo-hoo!) hits the shelves in August. I get to meet people who’ve read it, talk about it, swirl my sherry and pretend I know what I’m talking about when people ask me what it’s about. I get to meet Steampunks at conventions, strangers at signings, beg people to buy it…and try to ignore bad reviews. Getting to the top of that uphill slog, I realise that I can’t hoist the flag just yet. It seems this is just a hump in the foothills, and there’s a whole mountain range beyond that with my name on it.
Shoulder that backpack, tighten the bootlaces, adjust my bobble-hat.
There’s climbing to be done.
If you would like to keep abreast of Craig’s progress with Greaveburn or just want to see his amazing Steam Punk costume for the book launch you can find him in these places:
Join the Facebook fan page – http://www.facebook.com/CraigHallamAuthor
Follow him on Twitter – @craighallam84
Subscribe to his blog – http://craighallam.wordpress.com/