- Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Of course! My mother taught me to read at three years old after I deciphered the word “Reception” at the family doctor’s office. She was very patient and diligent, and by four I was up and running. Worlds of possibilities opened up to me, and I devoured fiction at an incredible rate growing up. I had a tumultuous childhood, and reading provided me with a means of escape from the events around me. I read Treasure Island twice at five.
At eight, I attempted Frank Herbert’s Dune, and was extremely frustrated and dismayed to discover concepts and interactions I couldn’t comprehend. The gist was enough, however, and a total love of science fiction was the product! Sagan, Asimov, Van Voght, Bradbury, Rucker and Gibson and their contemporaries, I read them all every chance I got, and my mind expanded with motivations, reactions, plans, emotions. Pratchett and Adams gave me humour. Rice gave me passion and the nature of the beast. I reread Dune at 12 and was pleased to be able to understand it in its entirety, hanging on every word. Conniving politics, stranglehold economics, manifesting destiny and plots within plots within plots.
I was also crazy for films, and when there was a film based on a book (or a book created from a film) I read the book then watched the film immediately after, contemplating how well it was translated, what was shitty, what was great, and of course, how I would have done it.
At 14 I was sent into state care, living in group homes and on the streets in St Kilda and Prahran, Melbourne. Again, reading provided me with an opportunity to escape, but it became less so as a world of drugs, violence and criminal activity swallowed me up. I was small for my age at the time, so the lessons of all the lives I had absorbed from the pages gave me some tools to navigate the relatively dangerous existence I found myself in. They helped me survive. It also caused me some problems, let’s face it, you don’t want to be the smart kid in a room full of junkie deadshits, but more than a few people sought my opinion on certain things, and a bit of respect is its own coin.
At eighteen they let me go, and, after realizing in a moment of clarity that I would end up in jail if I continued my lifestyle, I took off to Perth. I stopped committing crimes. I got a job, a room in a share house and I learned that I could enjoy my life. I grew.
I came home to Melbourne a few years later with the idea that I could write a screenplay about what life in the youth hostels was like in Melbourne. It took me about four months, a fictional tale about four boys who sneak out at night to steal a Porsche from a drug dealer. It was 320 pages. I had no experience in scriptwriting and didn’t know that 100 pages was too much!
Next stop, film school. I learned how to treat a script, how to edit, what pace and beat meant, what an arc and a turning point and a conclusion were. How to direct actors, what to look for in their performances, how to convey subtext, blah blah blah. I graduated. I was ready to take on the world!
Fast forward ten years. A collapsed business, a broken relationship, and my dreams of directing films seemed a distant memory on the wrong side of depression and self-loathing. I hadn’t read a book in years. I was up to my eyeballs in drugs and scumbags, strippers, criminals and a daily practice of desperation survivalism. Sporadic homelessness was tempered by the windfall of the deal. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost again.
One day I sat down in my friend’s living room (I was couchsurfing) and began to type. I spent ten hours bashing my poor, abused laptop into submission that first day. So many things came out. The more I wrote, the more a story emerged, a story of a lost, deranged wastrel who convinces himself he is destined to take over the world. Day after day I wove this guy’s life, every day more interested and consumed in the project. I began to plan out three books, and when I was about 140k words in, nearing the end of the first novel, I began researching how to find a publisher, how to self publish, and how to promote. For some reason, I convinced myself that I could game the system, list on Amazon and perform the wily Koontz Maneuver. I planned to purchase 100k copies of my own work in December on prepaid credit cards and gift cards, using a VPN to disguise the purchasing locations in order to push the book into the bestseller’s list, and snaffle up a fair portion of all those yummy January Amazon gift card coins. Even going straight, I was crooked.
I needed $100-$250k, and I had 800 bucks. So I set to work, grinding out my MO with a fervor, a passion and a drive that I had never had before. I made connections, introductions, and the wind fell in earnest. I tried to save every penny, reinvesting instead of splurging. It worked. I wasn’t supporting my habits, I was supporting a goal!
It all fell in a heap when I was robbed of $47k at knifepoint in a carpark in Richmond. They also set my car ablaze, presumably to stop me from following them, or because they were total dicks.
I walked 6km home in a panic, took the remaining 14 grand I had stashed, but instead of restocking and redoubling my efforts, I went to the casino. I lasted about two hours before I was broke. Loser. Idiot. Fucking moron. But I still had a small amount of product at home. It wasn’t a total clusterfuck.
So I began to inject my drugs to save money and went crazy instead. Seven weeks later I was in jail, sentenced to four years incarceration for trafficking, weapons and a host of assorted stupidities.
I realized in the police cells that I never actually finished the book. I didn’t even write another word after I decided to manipulate the system. Stupid!
Yet, jail has its benefits, and the experience transformed me. I quit smoking. I quit drugs. I got healthy and fit. I began to read again, and I wrote a screenplay, Vampires on Ice, which pleased me a lot and helped to heal my self image. After a year I was sent to a prison farm, which in Australia has no fences except for the cows, and very few guards. The first day walking the track was an eye opener. I had to grow up and stop with all my bullshit!
So I wrote a book, a young adult sci fi under another pen name and it was good! I felt like I had achieved something, and had taken from my jailers more than they had taken from me. I wrote three more screenplays before I wrote my second completed novel, Vampire Joe. Joe took me 20 days of furious typing, and I loved every single keystroke, I laughed hysterically at the library computer several times a day. I was not in prison. I was free. Again, books had provided me an escape from the depressing reality of my existence.
I worked on myself, read self development books and participated in the prison programs. My mental health improved drastically. I wrote three more screenplays and another science fiction book. My path as an author, and a capable one, was beginning to reveal itself.
I served my time and changed my whole life. I write books!