17th July, 2020

I noticed that, since I finished writing The Malign Alliance and got it out there as an e-book and a print book, friends and colleagues have often made the same comment. ‘How do you do it?’ or ‘What makes you do it?’ or ‘So where do the stories/characters come from?’

The questions prompted me to really think about the ‘why’ of the creative enterprise. Why does anyone sit down and spend many countless hours of their life writing stories, or painting pictures, or designing clothes, or writing songs when they could be getting on with something really useful – like bringing potable water to African villages, or discovering a new vaccine for Covid-19, or researching higher yield crop production. And I suspect the answer is, quite simply, that a vivid imagination has to have somewhere to go. It’s as unstoppable as Mount Etna.

However, that doesn’t mean that ‘creatives’ are superfluous to requirements. Even Albert Einstein said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’ and I suspect he was commenting on the fact that someone, somewhere needs to dream something up in order to allow it to be created somewhere by someone – though not always the same someone in the same place. Did H G Wells imagine that one day, humankind would travel to the moon? He sure did and, sure enough, it happened. Philip K Dick imagined ‘replicants’ and, what ho!, now we have cloning, though not of human beings (yet).

My creative journey started with a dream – and a face. I have trouble sleeping sometimes and it helps if I spin a story in my head before nodding off. It takes my mind off the usual worries that would keep me awake. So, I ask myself, ‘what if?’ and sure enough, before I knew it, I had a crazy idea of combining the medieval concept of political/royal marriage with a futuristic setting. It forced together my twin loves of history and science fiction. The ‘face’ was of a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who I’d just been watching in ‘Gormenghast’, a wonderful adaptation by the BBC. He had the look of the character who was to become ‘Jax’ in TMA. Thus, a ‘Eureka!’ moment took place around fifteen years ago that led to the writing of The Malign Alliance.

I wrote it in a year. The characters bounced into life inside my head and the plot with all its twists and turns, I nutted out in two weeks before I even started writing. Then, because I’d written it for fun and to pass long evenings in the village where I then lived, I forgot about it. And, if I hadn’t gone to the UK for a visit last year and re-met an old friend who said I should self-publish, it wouldn’t have happened. She had read that early first draft and, being English, she said it was ‘not bad’, which as everyone knows means it’s okay. So, there you have it… a story and all the characters in it are born of a pregnant mind which was just trying to get a little sleep!

If, this works for you as you undertake your own creative journey, then I wish you many sleepless nights. Chances are, you’ll have a hit!