Reader, writer, super bunny


I’m a keen reader  ―  over the years I’ve got through lots of them, not because I’m fast but by dint of my age. I'm 55 and I suspect I’m actually the Energiser Bunny. I’ve always got books on the go  ― on my bedside table or Kindle.

I grew up on a diet of W.E. Johns (Biggles) and Enid Blyton (Five Go To Mystery Moor etc) and looked forward to my weekly trips to the library.

I think that’s genetic. I’ve heard that my father as a child once walked into a street pole while engrossed in a book. I know he had some near misses as an adult too. I have heeded this lesson.  I decided years ago to only read in the safety of my own home. Usually with a yellow hard hat. Not that my home is particularly safe, especially the bit of hallway where I broke my left leg last year.

I have a confession to make. At age nine, I read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre which impressed an awful lot of adults. Truth is, I didn't have a clue at the end what it was about.

As an adult, I progressed to John Steinbeck, and his character-driven books like Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.

But my favourite genres now are humour and crime fiction.

Since Steinbeck hasn’t written anything since he died, my  favourite fiction authors now are Roddy Doyle, Carl Hiassen,  Colin Bateman, Derek Hanson, Ian Rankin, Hanning Mankel, Marina Lewycka, John Le Carre, John Mortimer and Joseph Heller. OK, the last two guys aren't writing much any more either. I think the common thread is they all conjure interesting characters. Um, except Mortimer and Heller.

I like light and dark, which for me, are two sides of the same coin.

I have written a couple of novels. I self-published one called Apples in the early 90s in my home state of Tasmania. It’s lucky I had lots of friends and relatives there because they were my main market. 

I  know that two copies ended up in the US and one survived a hurricane on Galveston Isand some years later. I suspect it survived because it got bunged on to the top shelf with the intention the owner didn’t have to see it again and it remained high and dry when the floodwater came through the house.

I co-published the other one, Major BS: A Top Secret Mission, in 2007.

That made its way as an e-book on Amazon. I think I make a dollar every book sold. It’s drinking money, but it’s a very lucky thing indeed I don’t drink much.

Still, I like the technology. I like the feeling it gives me when someone in Britain shells out £2.53 or someone in the US takes a chance on me for $3.99. I like it that no tree has to die so I can earn my $1.

I’m a journalist by trade so the discipline of writing is well drilled in me. I don’t think any of my editors in my early years would have been amused if I had claimed I couldn’t meet a deadline because I had writer’s block. But this is a different kind of writing and I can only hope the writer's block that has eluded me for so long will reappear so I can have an excuse for not doing any work.

It hasn't all been pretty. I still bear the scars on my fingers from my first news-editor, Mr Connell, rapping me on the knuckles with his ruler while I was one-finger typing and saying: “Use all those fingers, son.”

And then there are the mental scars. Horrible ones. For instance, when I was a mere cadet a big brute of a compositor, who rode motorbikes in his spare time, cut my necktie in half with a pair of scissors because he probably knew I wouldn't argue with an eight-foot, 25-stone bikie and if aI did next time he'd cut me in half or worse, snip off my willie. He was right. I chose life, manhood and the look of silliness, with only half a tie, for the rest of the day.

Therein lies the influence for my latest novel-to-come. Well, not exactly. Well, not at all, in fact. But it's mitigation for something, eh?

This novel is in its infancy. I would have started it last year but I got a bit distracted. I’m taking some new characters back to the scene of my first novel, Windy Mountain. This time I want to get my point-of-view right and see how some of the old characters have aged and some of the new characters interact ― especially my new main character who is a convicted arsonist who gets thrown into the role of manager of the local Tasmanian Tiger museum.

I’m using a piece of software called StoryMill. I like it. I’m not rushing into this novel. I’m thinking about back stories and forward stories, scribbling stuff down, creating characters, collecting info and drafting some early chapters I know from experience will probably change. I think the software is going to be useful for helping to maintain consistency.

It’s far, far too soon to know what I will do with this novel when I eventually finish it.

Presenting business cases to prospective publishers is not my strong suit.

“Tell us why you think your novel will make us lots of money?”

“Well, it's got vampires in it.”

“Really?”

“No, not really. I'll know more when I write it though. I'm not ruling vampires in or out. Or large bikes."

"You mean to say you haven't written it yet, wasting my money-making time? You writers really don't get productivity, do you? What's wrong with formulas, templates and conveyor belts? Who did you vote for?"

You know what this means? It means I'll probably bypass the bloodsuckers this time and go straight to e-book. Prepare your Kindles, kiddies.


My existing books: 


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© John Martin