A blog post by my friend, author Mari Biella, in which she spoke of her current inability to write and the feeling of loss that accompanies this unpleasant and temporary bedfellow, prompted me to re-examine my writing – or lack of it over the last two years. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing any because I didn’t want to.
After two novels, in one of which I went to dark places that I would rather have avoided, I knew on an unconscious level that I did not want to revisit any of those places. True, there are characters in that particular book I love, none of them human, but the book is all too raw and despite my best attempts to avoid exploitation I don’t think I succeeded. I am better pleased with my first novel, but even it has edges that, like paper, cut secretly and silently.
So, where to? The horror genre is not for me and although I will continue to write short stories in which horror might intrude from time to time – as it does in real life – my last novel was my last horror novel. I see there is another J.D. Hughes on Amazon now, writing Erotica, so that avenue is closed, for which I will thank my daemons!
I think the death of my mother a few months ago was a great influence on my decision. She was the gentlest and most harmless soul who ever walked the earth, a Yorkshire woman through and through with the characteristic ‘say nowt and get on wi’ it’ attitude of her class and generation that made England resilient to successive waves of would be invaders. I was raised in a Yorkshire mining town, so acquired a little by osmosis. It was a stoic resilience exploited by the rich and powerful to ensure the trenches were full of dead, but it was nevertheless an honest and somehow innocent thing that ignored its usage and concentrated instead on its truth.
We were close and her death affected me in many ways beyond explanation, but on a banal level it confirmed what I had known for some time: do no harm, tread lightly and life is short so we have to fill it with some kind of joy to celebrate the gift. I find myself vague about what I mean by that, but I’m sure it is not the portrayal of the worst elements of humanity in vivid form that enables joy. There is sufficient of that horror every day on our TV screens and although occasionally there is a diamond of light in long form horror fiction, it is, to me now, mostly a gleeful wallowing in darkness and misery.
Those who have read my stories will know that I love history, particularly English history so that might be an avenue I could pursue… but I probably won’t, because it is a relating of past events and I am more interested in the future.
Thriller? Today’s thrillers are visceral and many succeed because of that element, so there is little difference between it and horror, although there are several writers I admire who keep the bloodletting to a minimum with great skill and compassion, yet still manage to weave a compelling and sometimes memorable tale.
I ran through the genres last night and came up with nothing. I considered ‘Literature’, but I have no idea what it is. A beta reader for whom I have much respect said to me once: ‘I love your writing, but it’s way too complicated. Most readers want a story that goes from A to Z with an occasional backtrack into F or P, but not an alphabet jigsaw.’ She did go on to say that all the pieces fitted, but it demanded too much from the reader.
I agree. I get carried away. Mea culpa. I used to like layer cake, too.
I now have a new companion. He came from my Mum’s house (she collected them) and now has pride of place at my writing desk. He is a simple bear and unsurprisingly his name is Ted. I tried to call him Marcus, after Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, but he refused to take heed when addressed as such, so Ted it is. I have started talking to him, so predictions by one of my more irascible neighbours about my descent into senility are probably not unfounded. It is interesting that he rarely agrees with me, so I have to assume that he is my alter ego, my Id, my subconscious, whatever you want call it, but I asked the question, ‘What should I write?’
It was a stuffed bear moment. His barely visible eyes gleamed a little and I swear his shoulders shook momentarily, but that might have been the whisky – he’s a terrible drinker. His lips didn’t move, since he has an absence of them, but I’m sure I caught a whispered: ‘Whatever you like.’
So that is what I will write. Whatever I like. ‘Like’ is the operative word here. That will be different on different days and will no doubt end up as a terrible mish-mash of genres with abysmally crafted prose and obtuse humour funny to no-one except me and perhaps Ted, after a glass or two.
But I’ve started on it.