I think for all of us who write it starts with the creative impulse, doesn’t it? A need to create something permanent and pleasing has surely been a basic human trait from the first ochre paintings on the walls of caves? We’re possessive creatures, don’t you think, who feel the need to catch and hold the things that we enjoy? So when we learned to write, we saw it as a means of catching sights and thoughts and feelings in fine nets of words – like putting falling stars in pockets, pressing wildflowers, pinning butterflies to boards or holding sunbeams in the hand.
There is a kind of magic in the trick of conjuring reality from marks on paper or a screen. A kind of alchemy, like spinning straw to gold as in the fairy story by the Brothers Grimm. Then, having learned the trick and weighed the gold, we’re tempted naturally to try to sell what we enjoy creating, to turn a pleasure into a source of income. At least, that’s how I see it. I love to watch the process, see the magic work – to conjure thoughts out of the air, to pin them down and see them printed out, enclosed within the cover of a book (or projected as an e-book if you must) – to know that those who read them will see what I saw, feel what I felt as I typed them, and are prepared what’s more to pay for the experience. In fact I’m far less interested in recognition than in turning an honest penny from my work, although I recognise the two go hand in hand.
But naturally there’s more to it than that. When I research my books I learn all sorts of fascinating things which I am keen to pass on to their readers, rather in the sense of gossiping across a garden gate. In one book I’ve explained how war horses were transported overseas to the crusades, in another how a whole city was excavated underground during the First World War, and in a third how nineteenth century tourists crossed the Alps on sledges, and why prostitutes are often barren. I like to get the facts right, unpick the legends of the past and tell the truth as I perceive it. I want to interest my readers, entertain them, make them smile or even shed a tear – to capture their imaginations.
And one more thing. I have to admit that there’s something a little mischievous in me which also likes to catch my readers out, to challenge and surprise them. Life is unpredictable, and so should stories be. That’s what I think and one of the reasons why I write them.