I’ve always been a lover of books. Some of my earliest memories are reading Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton, following the exploits of Peter, Janet and their friends and, of course Scamper the dog.
I also remember my brother reading Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4 to me when we shared a room. Things get a little hazy between then and wanting to read Stephen King as a teenager.
I think I started with The Green Mile, if I remember correctly, we as a family had recently watched the movie adaptation and I wanted to read the book. That was where discovery of Stephen King started and my love for big books started too.
I read intermittently throughout the rest of my teenage years before discovering King’s The Dark Tower series around 2009. I worked my way through the series and fell completely in love with reading. A taxi driver once recommended I read Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and I found a genre I related to. The character of Jack Reacher is a brute who drifts around America, in and out of towns and cities, and different kinds of trouble along the way. I plowed through the Jack Reacher series which is currently up to 19 or 20 novels.
After catching up with Reacher, I needed a new series of books to sink my teeth into. I found James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series and devoured the stories of Lindsey Boxer and her colleagues climbing the ladders of their respective, male dominated careers.
This brings us up to around 2013; I was living in Portsmouth, on the south coast of England at the time with a girlfriend. While showering one day, my mind wandered, rather randomly, to the concept of hypnosis and mind control and the idea of using hypnosis for murder/suicide. I have no idea where this idea came from really, it was just a random train of thought. Even so, I jumped out of the shower and powered up my computer to frantically make notes on this idea I had.
I added to the notes in bits and pieces over the next few years until 2015, around July I believe. I had been thinking about my novel idea a lot around that time and decided that enough was enough, that I really wanted to develop this idea and make it happen. Over the Summer, I thrashed out 20,000 words, joined a Facebook group for fiction writers, appropriately titled Fiction Writing and truly invested in my writing.
Then the wheels came flying off, for various personal reasons; bereavement, relationship breakdowns, the works. So I stopped writing as much as I had been and had to reorganise my priorities.
Fast-forward to January 2016. I had made myself a promise to crack on, once again with writing, to be in a position to publish my novel before the end of the year. This didn’t quite play out the the way I wanted it to but instead my novel took a back-seat and a new idea came to the fore.
I mentioned before that I joined a Facebook group called Fiction Writing, for authors of all levels of experience to support and guide each other through writing and publishing. The administrator of the group runs his own publishing company called Scout Media and, in 2015 started a short story anthology series known as the ‘…of Words’ series. All volumes of the series would be called A ‘…’ of Words, the blank being filled by the chosen theme of that volume. The authors included in the anthology would be exclusively made up of members from Fiction Writing. The first volume was called A Matter of Words and was published in November 2015, available on Amazon and other online book stores.
The second volume was announced some time in late 2015 but I had never considered taking part, simply because I wasn’t in the writing mode around that time. Fast-forward again to January 2016 and there is a lot of talk on Fiction Writing about the second volume, A Journey of Words and those who were in the midst of writing a story for submission or those who already had. Each story in AJOW had to involve travelling, a journey taking place.
I was walking to work one Wednesday afternoon at the end of January thinking about my Dad who had recently decided to visit Route 66 for a month with two of his friends. He had been a few years earlier but their experience was soured by a rouge friend who thought he knew best. I remembered my Dad visiting a place in Arizona called Williams, which just happens to be our surname.
Out of this thought process came the idea for a short story, about a man, surname Williams, who travels to America to complete Route 66 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I recorded notes on my phone and the next day began writing this short story, with intention to submit to A Journey of Words.
The story was completed in late March/early April and I sent the story to be edited by the admin of Fiction Writing. A week later, he sent back my story covered in notes and comments, aimed at helping me improve as a writer. I stepped through the edits and, after a short delay, finally submitted in the middle of May.
I didn’t have any expectations about being chosen for the anthology. I was happy enough to have finished a piece of writing for the first time, let alone submitted. I should mention that I didn’t attend university and I have no academic qualifications relating to English or Creative Writing so to have written a story and submitted it for consideration was a huge achievement to me.
The last week of May is probably one I will never forget. May 21st, I received an email to say my story had survived the first round of rejections and would subsequently be read by 13 beta readers, made up of those authors who were accepted at the first round. Again, I felt proud that my story hadn’t been rejected at the first hurdle. Now it was in the hands of my peers.
A week later, May 29th, I was at work when I checked the time on my phone and saw I had an email waiting for me from Scout Media. My heart started to beat out of my chest and my face flushed. I read the email out loud in the presence of a colleague, twice to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. The email told me my story had received enough ‘Yes’ votes from the 13 beta readers to be added to the anthology, due to be published in the Summer.
So to summarise, you can find my story Get Your Kicks on Route 66, alongside 34 other amazing stories, in Scout Media’s A Journey of Words this summer!