"As an established author since 1989, I am frequently asked about the inspiration for my sources and the background material to my stories. Most common among the questions asked are (1) 'Is the content biographical?' and (2) 'Are your story characters real people you have known in your life?' The short answer to both these questions in that order is 'partly' and 'mostly'.
Over the years I have run several dozen creative writing courses for school children between the ages of 10 and 18 years. Their most common question asked would invariably be,'What do I write about?' to which my reply would always be, 'Write about something you know, and that means something emotional to you.' I want them to know that we own everything that happens to us.The class teachers always preferred this approach, as it enabled those pupils who were poor in material circumstances and of less academic ability, but rich in understanding the hard knocks and sad experiences in life, to be advantaged in the class for once. Such sad and hard experiences that some pupils had to draw upon, led to some of the finest writing I have known come from the pen of a youngster who could barely write a sentence previously. All that I was doing was getting the pupils to express their honest feelings on paper and once they started to express themselves about something they knew and which came from their lives, they were captured.
The pupils who had the hardest of home lives were streets ahead of those pupils who lived in more comfortable household surroundings and were encouraged by their parents daily to succeed. Once I got across the benefits in health terms for being able to honestly express one's feelings, particularly bad feelings which had been repressed for many years, most pupils saw the creative writing process as being life enhancing and many felt it be truly cathartic.
I recall one teacher from Barnsly, where I'd given her class a creative writing course some six months earlier telling me about young Sam, a boy from a large family with an abusive stepfather. The teacher had given her 10-year-old pupils an exercise to complete over the long summer holidays, which was to be handed in upon their September return to school. The exercise was to write an essay about one's holiday experiences. As to be expected, most essays described where the pupil had been for their holidays and all the exotic things they saw and the things they did. As it happened, the teacher was pleased to award 'best essay' to Sam, who'd never before won anything in his life. Sam couldn't afford to go on holiday, and he spent the six weeks running errands and keeping his grandmother company, who sadly died one week before Sam returned to school.
During his six-week holiday break from school, Sam's 15-year-old sister gave birth to a son, one of his brothers came out of prison after having served a two-year custodial sentence and his mother had taken the family and moved into sheltered accommodation to get away from her abusive partner. Sam wrote in his essay that his mum and her partner were unfortunately reconciled after three weeks, but added that those three weeks without her bloke living with them were the most peaceful and trouble-free he'd known for a long time.
It is therefore with little surprise to discover that an author's first published book will be largely autobiographical. In subsequent books that follow, many of the character experiences and indeed the characters themselves often remain silhouettes of real life people. I often create a character by using a combination of characters I have known in real life and giving them traits from each. Indeed many of the women characters I write about represent a character collage of their good and bad traits.
I remember being very angry with my first wife after our divorce, particularly when she refused to let me see our two children for two years. While it would have been so easy to have lost my temper and knocked her front door in with an axe, I found it more therapeutic and within the law to depict her character in a book I was writing for school children and young adults. I got two photographs, one of my first wife and an uncharitable one of Margaret Thatcher and I arranged for the artist to provide me with a front cover of an angry/greedy woman with blue hair, falling flat on her big bottom, which had been made up from the two images. I called the character 'Mad Maggie'. I then thought about every nasty and evil woman I'd ever known and heard of and gave the 'Mad Maggie' character corresponding traits to match.Every child who read about her, hated her and wanted to see her get her come-uppance.
The beauty was that tens of thousands of my books were sold exclusively to Yorkshire schools each year and my ex-wife (who was a teacher in Yorkshire) would undoubtedly see both book and cover image without 'knowing' that she had been the inspiration! I suppose that in many ways, creativeness can be an act of defiance. Let's face it folks, you can't blame the writer for what his character does and says!
Some people who read books like a bit of 'escapism,' whereas I like to provide them with that experience through my own pieces of 'reality'. Most people read to know that they are not alone in their experiences. I know people who write to give them strength or to obtain insight. I know some who want to be the characters they are not and could never be, and I know others who are afraid to do and express the emotions that their characters do.They effectively give themselves a vicarious pleasure through the creative role of another fictional one.
I have always viewed writing and image construction as being the creative heart of my life. As far as seeing myself as a professional writer, I prefer to view myself as being a social crusader; someone masquerading as a writer or as a proficient amateur who didn't quit after receiving the first rejection slip from the publishers. Initially, we writers tend to write far too much and it takes time and much learning to still be able to write a lengthy and relevant piece; while leaving out the bits that readers might otherwise skip.
At the end of the day, writing involves the construction of paragraphs alongside a number of images and the ability to tell a story. Deep down, one's imagination and intuition know what to write so the best thing we can do is to take a back seat, don't stand in the way and let it happen. I have one image that corresponds with every paragraph in any book I write. My task then becomes to match that image as precisely as possible with the words I write in that paragraph.The image always shapes the words used. When I am successful, my words are read by the reader who then forms an image in their mind, When the image they form is the very same image that gave me the inspiration to match with the written word initially, I know that I've succeeded in my endeavours. Let's face it, folks, we are each a palette of experiences and emotions with which we paint our images!
I know of so many people who have a book inside them but have never got around to the discipline of writing it. Often, they ask me to write their story for them, but I politely refuse. More often than not, while they may provide many excuses for never having written their book, the real reason is that they fear 'rejection' if it doesn't live up to the reader's expectations. Let me tell you that nothing haunts us more than the things we never say and nothing is more frustrating than the words that we could put on paper, but never write.
My own advice to everyone is to write that first book, not in the hope of it becoming a best seller and making you rich, but because it is much better out of you than being frustrated inside you! I loved telling stories to my young children at their bedtimes which I made up. I then fell into the role of writing stories for children. I loved writing for children during my earlier years as an author, not so that I could tell them that dragons existed, but in my role as a social crusader, I wanted to show them how the human ones could be beaten." William Forde: January 29th, 2017.