Today, I am fortunate to have Alex Dahl, author of The Boy At The Door, stop by and present a piece on why she chose fiction. Please do check it out and be sure to check out her book, which is published by Head of Zeus and is out now.
Choosing Fiction by Alex Dahl
I am often asked why I chose to become a writer, but this is a question impossible to answer. I never chose to become a writer, au contraire, it was like it chose me and there was little point in fighting it. Writing is a compulsion more than an interest. A way of life, rather than a way of earning a living. A source of frustration at times- there are easier ways of driving oneself to insanity than trying to keep your spirits up while dealing with rejection after rejection. I’d never advise anyone to become a novelist because you want to- I think you have to, or don’t bother. Procrastination, poverty, pressure- all commonplace elements of an author’s life, at least at some point in your career. So what makes being a novelist the best job in the world?
As a child, I was surrounded by stories at home. My grandmother wrote children’s books, my father was also a writer, and my mother is an avid reader, who instilled a deep love of reading in me from an early age. It seemed incredible to me that we get to live hundreds, or thousands, of lives through fiction. I wrote my own stories, becoming increasingly determined in my late teens, and there was never a plan B, much to the chagrin of people around me…
It isn’t easy to bridge the gap between the stories in your mind and heart, and the commercial marketplace of modern publishing. It’s all very lovely to be consumed by exciting plots, compelling characters and dreams of potential literary success, but it is imperative as a writer starting out to understand how to take your creative material from raw material to publishable quality. For many people, this is learnt through practice and determined grit. For others, myself included, it was incredibly valuable to pursue a formal qualification in Creative Writing.
I did an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, learning to hone the craft of writing from some of the best, most inspiring lecturers in the industry. I can’t overstate how inspiring it was, to suddenly find myself surrounded by others who were as consumed and obsessed with writing as myself. I learnt that it wasn’t all about me, and my own selfish urge to write and become a published novelist- it was about acquiring the skills to produce fiction that might one day be of interest to paying readers. Nobody on my MA tried to teach me how to write. They taught me to develop my own voice, while gaining an understanding of what a novel is, what its purpose should be, and how to write one that may succeed in engaging readers.
It is a big ask, to ask a reader to part with their money and a not insignificant chunk of their time to read your book, so I feel the responsibility of taking the craft of writing seriously, not taking short-cuts, or underestimating my readers.
My career and my life merge on so many levels- I rarely switch off, I am always gathering material for my writing, I sometimes find it impossible to switch off from dark storylines, and I drive myself crazy with the pressures of deadlines, but it always, always feels meaningful. On the few occasions I have thought about quitting, I have quickly pushed the thought from my mind, because I know I can’t. I don’t only want to be a novelist, I have to be, no matter what- no matter how many rejections (many), how much performance anxiety I feel in the run up to The Boy at the Door coming out this summer ( a lot), how it at times has felt like bone-grindingly hard work- it was always novelist or…nothing.
If, one day, one of my children tells me they want to become a writer, I will definitely sit them down and ask- do you want to be a writer or you have to write?
THE BOY AT THE DOOR
Release Date: 01st May 2018
Published by: Head of Zeus
What would you do for the perfect life?
Would you lie? Cheat? Or… kill?
Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life. A handsome husband, two beautiful daughters and a luxurious home in the picture-postcard town of Sandefjord.
She’s the type of woman people envy, and she wants to keep it that way.
Then Tobias enters her life. He’s a gentle, lonely eight-year-old boy. But he threatens to bring Cecilia’s world crashing down…