I am excited to be here today to bring in a Guest Post from Author, S.J. Hardman Lea. This post is not like the usual post around here and was a lot of fun to read. I am glad to be able to share with you. Thanks for coming by the blog today. I hope you will check out The Sins of Soldiers.
You’d have to be a total idiot to want to write a novel.
I mean, why would you set out to spend many, many, many solitary hours getting a story worked through and then typed out – hours away from family, from friends, from the world; hours when you could be doing something much more interesting or fun or useful (or even asleep)? At the end of which, after you’ve gone through those months of blood, toil, sweat and tears (and there’s always a lot of all of those), and you’ve finished and polished your effort, you still won’t have a clue whether it’s any good (and it probably won’t be). You’ll have no idea whether anybody else will like reading it, but you’ll have a nasty suspicion that maybe most people won’t. You’d have to be a total idiot – or at least have strong masochistic inclinations - to put yourself (and everybody close to you) through that. Wouldn’t you?
So why did this total idiot ever start? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve asked myself that. But there’s a really simple answer. It mainly comes from being a compulsive reader. Always was, ever since a Catholic nun taught me to read when I was four and opened the door onto different worlds. From then on, I read everything and anything I could get my hands on providing it was fiction: my own books, my parents’ books, my older sister’s books. All my life I’ve devoured stories like a fish drinks.
And because of all those stories, all that reading, although I ended up in a career as a hospital doctor, I always told myself that wasn’t really what fate intended for me. I should be writing my own novel, inventing own story. So finally, I realized I’d got no choice. I didn’t really have the time, but if I didn’t give it a go, I’d always feel that I’d missed out on something in life. It was just something I needed to get out of my system, once and for all. One evening, years ago, I sat at my desk, took pen and paper, and made myself a nice straightforward four-step plan. This was it.
Step one: Do some in-depth research about how to write novels – should take about 12 months of leisure time.
Step two: Decide what to write - shouldn’t be too difficult after all those years of reading.
Step three: Start to write - at about five hundred words per day, that’s an average length novel in about six months; call it nine to allow for editing.
Step four: Publish the book, enjoy the applause and then quit - job done and point proved. Total time, about two years, max.
Simple… (If blogs had sound effects, you’d be hearing the echoes of hollow laughter at this point. Total idiot, remember?)
All I really need to tell you is that it took over eight years from that night to see my first novel The Sins of Soldiers hit the shelves in 2016. Sins wasn’t at all what I thought I was going to write at the beginning: it’s the start of a sequence of stories set in and around the First World War – not that they are really about the war itself, more stories about how men and women react at times of ultimate stress, how lives intertwine when every emotion is turned up to a maximum by constant danger.
But what happened to my master plan of producing one book and quitting? Why haven’t I put this writing stuff to one side and returned to a normal life? That was the idea from the start.
That’s been the biggest surprise of all. I did always intend to stop, but somehow, at some point in these last years, my characters seem to have taken on their own lives, strutting and fretting their hours in my imagination and on the pages yet to come. They’ve become as real to me as they are to my readers. That means that while I still think I was a total idiot to start, I guess that by some weird alchemy I have actually become a writer. And a writer with a lot more stories to tell.