In my fifties – mostly through dint of circumstances – I began to write. I’d long held a secret ambition to write, but the business of earning a living and co-raising a family meant that I’d little time or justification for such an indulgence throughout my adult life, at least up until that point. But my circumstances changed and not very propitiously at first: I was seriously ill.
Being moved forward prematurely into death’s ante-room, so to speak, had a very cathartic effect on me and suddenly I wanted to get things down in print before… well, before I lost the capacity to, let’s put it like that. But what did I want to say that was so compelling that I thought other people might like to read about it? I knew in a vague sense that I wanted to write science fiction (after John Wyndham, one of my literary heroes) and that – a keen student of history – I always felt that there was a historical novel or two (Rosemary Sutcliff-like) lurking inside my mind, but where to begin, where to begin?
The only advice I got – and I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember who it was from now – was to write about what I knew, from personal experience – from life. Now, whilst that sounded okay, the only trouble was that I hadn’t had all that an exciting or interesting a life when all was said and done: a reasonably happy and a productive one, but not what you’d call a highly exhilarating and hugely varied one; the sort of adventurous, risky or woeful and appalling life that some authors are able to draw upon. But there were my wonderfully colourful relatives of the 1950s and 60s in south Wales of course – and so I began there [setting their tall stories and sometimes comic escapades in a fictionalised town called Trehaearn]. These twenty or so stories are yet to be published, but the advice had been good – starting from what I knew, I had begun to write.
Given that my male forbears had been alive during the chaotic and highly-charged events of political and economic unrest in south Wales during the early 1830s – and living right at the epicentre of them all as well – I wrote my only play (to date) based on these times and events, which was very well-researched, though I say it myself, but possibly a little crude in its execution. Never mind, I was learning my craft and The Ignorant Mountaineers of South Wales (a title taken from a contemporary Times leader on the Chartist unrest of 1839) is ready and only awaiting a little editorial revision before it, too, sees the light of day.
I then wrote what is still, so far, my magnum opus – Our Second Selves – a full-length science fiction novel set in 2359 CE and, in so doing, I was obliged to create a whole new world for myself; a credible world, a functioning world even though it would be considered (hopefully) outlandish to most. This I tried to get published in a conventional way, but my manuscript was lost or expropriated by someone in a publisher that went bust and I began to feel disheartened, I have to admit. It sat on my computer and on discs for years waiting for a necessary revision and a new publishing venture. And that is where Whatmore Productions came to my rescue: a new on-line publishing venture set-up by my son and daughter-in-law. By the time this new company was ready to go live I had completed a children’s trilogy – the Dr. Kerfuffle series of books – based on some tales from Old Bavaria (I have no idea why!) that I regaled my two eldest grandchildren with, after school in my kitchen – prancing about like the old boy himself for added effect.
Subsequently, I cannot stop writing and the stuff is positively pouring out of me – two science fiction novellas, Lost for Words and Nothing but Males (plus another in preparation with a friend of mine), a series of further science fiction short stories, some ghostly and gothic shorts, and a major history trilogy set in the Dark Ages; my real magnum opus in all likelihood, if I am spared to complete it.
The oddest thing is that - semi-autobiographical stuff to one side - I have no idea where many of these ideas are coming from, though a life-time of reading – science, history, biography, classic literature, travel-writing and general fiction – have helped enormously and I am sub-consciously mining my memories and impressions and knowledge as I go along. And all I know now is that I love this intensely creative act of writing – devising plots, fleshing-out characters, describing scenes and emotions and telling a good tale. I only hope, of course, that my labours under conditions of extremis will not have been in vain and that, in time, veritable multitudes will come to appreciate them too.