Looking back, it seems that books were always an important part of my life. Or, rather, stories were. Y’see I would look for great stories wherever I could get them. In fact one of the things I remember most fondly about boarding school was watching the Saturday afternoon film, clutching a paper bag of sweets bought from the tuck shop. Mum and Dad kept all my weekly letters home which now bear testament to my love of those Saturday afternoons – my first letters tell them little more than the plot of the film I saw the previous week.
While my friends wanted to watch football on the tv, I wanted to watch the shows. The Tomorrow People, Doctor Who, Star Trek, The Invisible Man, The Six Million Dollar Man . . . stories.
And although spending so much of my youth abroad opened a daily door to adventure – from climbing volcanoes and trekking through the Sumatran rainforest, to fishing in the wilds of Brazil – the nights were long and dark and dull. No TV, no internet, no games consoles, no ipads, no cinema. So we used to read. Stories.
So books were entertainment, but they were also an escape from the daily grind of boarding school. Those precious ten minutes before lights-out were a chance for me to be somewhere else. Instead of lying in my bed, I could be flying through space, storming a machine-gun nest, riding across the desert, investigating a crime, or solving a murder. I could be anywhere, doing anything I chose, as long as I had a book in my hands.
As a teenager, I discovered Stephen King. I read ‘Salem’s Lot first, then raced through his other books like a crazed addict. The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Dead Zone, Christine, Firestarter, and on and on.
That’s when I wondered if I could do it too. Could I write my own stories? So I began to put down my own words. I began to create my own stories.
With those first stories came a dream – that I would one day be published. And nestling beneath that dream was something else. A dream within a dream.
‘Just Imagine,’ I used to think. ‘Just imagine how it would feel to have a book at number one, and right there beside me, sitting at number two, would be Stephen King.’
Well, it was only brief. Just one single day in a very specific category but, hey, a guy can dream, right?