I very nearly didn’t enter, that’s the thing.
I’d loved writing ever since primary school (I’d written a play about murder and mayhem in ancient Egypt – sort of ‘Game of Thrones’ with pyramids) but never seriously thought I would ever be published. After a long, long hiatus (called life, basically) I’d recently started up again. I’d had some success with short stories, and almost finished a ‘practice’ novel, an exercise in psychological suspense that frankly, by then I didn’t particularly love. But then…three chapters from the end, I made the acquaintance of one Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler.
Clever, complex Lukas, son of a German father and Scots mother. Cambridge-educated Lukas, lover of the Italian Renaissance and master of the caustic put-down. Lukas, who arrived fully-formed, walked into the story and took it over.
I knew immediately he deserved at least one novel to himself. I set to work on ‘Shadow Man’…and two things happened. I attended a crime-writing course at nearby Moniack Mhor , and got amazing feedback from the incomparable Val McDermid and Louise Welsh. And someone waved this in front of my nose:
Always wanted a to write a novel? Now’s your chance to see it published!
I almost didn’t dare. Me? Enter a novel competition? But then, at the last minute, I did. And three months later, I was sitting at a table in the Good Housekeeping Institute, having lunch and trying to pretend I wasn’t shattered and post-migrainous, when the winner was announced.
And I didn’t believe it. Not a word. The power of speech deserted me and I blinked my way through the photos and the good wishes in a daze it’s taken over a year to wear off. Sometimes I think it never will, not completely.
But as the article says, I did it. Lukas and I, we actually did it. So if you’re sitting at your laptop, knowing you have a story begging to be told, then do it. Write those words and take that walk to the pillar box.
Because next year, it really could be you we’re all reading about.