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Monday, 26 May 2014

Breaking the block

The title of my last post was 'It's been a long time...' It has. Almost two years to be precise. For a writer in the early days of his career to decide to take a two year hiatus (two and a half if you count the time from the publication of The Surrogate to today) is akin to committing career suicide. Just as you start to develop something of a following with readers eager to read and review your next piece of work and you give them a big fat nothing. They move on and so does publishing. It's not that I've been completely absent, it's just that I've other things on my mind. Things a little more important than sitting at my laptop into the late hours.

My daughter is now 15 months old. The last time I posted I'd only just seen her on a 13 week scan, but from that moment, my world turned upside down. All of a sudden, writing didn't seem to matter any longer. I spent most of my free time looking after my partner, trying to come up with a cure for morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness, further ultrasound scans, spending the royalties of my first book in Mamas and Papas, moving from a two bedroom flat overlooking the park to a three bedroom semi with decent transport links and trying to get ahead in my then new job. There was no time in the immediate aftermath of finding out I was going to be a father for writing and yet ironically I had become one of my very own characters.

When I look back on the middle chapters of The Surrogate, I wonder how much richer that novel could have been for actually having experienced what Tristan was going through. How much could I have added? How many little anecdotes - such as the experience I had a birthing classes - could have improved that book? But as I have already said, there was no time for thinking about writing, let alone reflecting on reader's feedback or my own life experience.

My daughter, Emily Rose was born on February 10th 2013 and I was smitten. For the past 15 months I have spent every last minute I could watching her smile and cry. Changing nappies and waking up in the middle of the night at every sort and moan. Lately I've read book after book to her when I came home from work, sat and watched Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank Engine with her. I've taken her to the park and on bike rides and to the zoo and the farm. We go swimming at weekends. All the moments I have, I want to spend with her, which is why I haven't written more than a page in nearly two years. But that has to change...

The same reason I haven't written a word in anger over the last two years is the same reason I have to write now. In twenty years time, when my daughter and I are discussing her career options, I want to be able to say her to her that I gave it my best shot. I want to be an example to her, that if you have a passion for something, then you should do that and try and make a career out of it. I don't want her to ask me what I was passionate about and not be able to answer. Being a father is the most important part of my life and yet the most important part of being a father is being somebody that my daughter can look up to. Even if that is writing 'drivel' (Thank you AMAZON CUSTOMER).

So, back to the grind...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

It's been a long time...

I'm very aware that I haven't posted anything for a long time. Not since I last revealed that if I sold 5000 copies of The Surrogate that I would propose to my long suffering girlfriend as I had promised. A lot, and I mean a lot has happened since then. Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more copies than the bible, British people have become obsessed with cycling, canoeing and rowing, and Manchester City have broken the record for the World's most expensive football trophy.

Even though I've not been writing much, or posting, it's nice to see that I'm still getting hits. Oddly, a lot of these hits have been coming from Sweden, so Sverige, Tack så mycket. However, I do feel like I should update everybody on what has been happening with the new book. 

Well, to be honest, not much has been happening. A third draft is in the can, but I've sort of hit a rut on a fourth and final draft. I know what changes I need to make, I know what I have to do, but for some reason, I just haven't found the time to do it. Well, that's a lie. I've had plenty of time, I've just hit that horrible period of writer's block. It's not the first time it's happened, and it probably won't be the last. I wrote the final draft of The Surrogate in six weeks. I don't think I've written anything in anger since. And one of the reasons is, there is no real urgency to do so. 

So much has happened in the last six months. I've been working almost non-stop, got engaged ( despite only selling 4000 books for the cynics out there) and last but my no means least, I'm going to be a dad for the first time. And maybe, that is what will shake me from this rut. 

 It's funny how something as little as the picture above can change your perspective on life. Writing doesn't seem as important now as it did. In six months time, all of the free time I have will not be spent of mulling over plot and dialogue, it'll be spent on changing nappies and getting some much needed sleep. All the time I have now is a blessing, I'm about to start living my life for somebody else. But that's not why I need to write again. 

I've been keeping a journal of the pregnancy so far, something I can give to my child when they grow up to let them know that since they were born I was thinking about them. In that journal, I've been trying to tell my unborn son or daughter, who I am now. That's not as easy as you would think. It's very easy to say who you were or who you want to be, but telling somebody who you are at that present time is difficult. One thing I do know though, is who I want to be, and that's somebody my child will be proud of. Yes, I have a good job as a lecturer, yes I'm in a loving relationship but I want to be more. I want to be more for my children. I want them to be able to look up to me as somebody who wasn't afraid to take a chance, to follow a dream and take control of their own life. I want to somebody they will aspire to be, and hopefully, I will. 

C J Evans

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Promise

February is the shortest month of the year and also one of the most depressing. January's salary disappears on bills from Christmas, your New Year's Resolutions have gone the same way as your money and along comes the annual celebration of showing your love through maxing out your credit card on an overpriced weekend away or not so romantic meal. Add to that, this year is a leap year and men everywhere go into hiding on the 29th just in case their girlfriends know about the old adage of women proposing on the extra day in the year.

Luckily for me, that isn't the case. My long suffering girlfriend has already told me that she would never in a million years propose to me because that is not the way it has to be done. My girlfriend is a very traditional woman (even though she earns more money than I do). Take for example the time we were discussing whether or not we wanted children - 'Would you want to have children without getting married or do you want to do it the RIGHT way?' No leading questions there!

So when I was just about to publish The Surrogate, and after a period where I wasn't working, I promised her that if I sold five thousand copies I'd ask her to marry me, she was delighted. I, on the other hand, had dodged a bullet. I'd given her the sign that I was ready for commitment, put faith in our relationship, and left the whole thing to chance. While she was willing the book to sell thousands of copies while flicking through bridal magazines, I was sitting back watching one or two books sell, comfortable in the knowledge that there was no way that I would be getting married this side of 2014, if ever. Then, it all went horribly wrong.

So far The Surrogate has sold just over 1000 copies in two months. Whether it's because people like it, fate, just dumb luck, or Joanne has 999 copies on her Kindle, it is selling and at this rate, I'll be ring shopping by September.

I know it sounds like I don't want to get married. I do. And I want to marry Joanne. She has been there for me since day one of this adventure and she is the one person that made me believe that I could do this. She may be messy, bossy and a bit of a control freak, but I wouldn't change her for the world. She sees the best in people, and I was lucky that somehow she saw the best in me. So if it happens, it happens. If another 4000 copies of The Surrogate fly out of the big database that stores all Amazon Kindle titles in the next few months, I will be standing at an altar somewhere, waiting. Tense, nervous (and knowing Joanne's ability to be late for everything) probably fearful.When she finally arrives, I'll be looking over my shoulder at her in awe and amazement, because without her, I wouldn't have sold a single copy.

C J Evans.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Back to the real world

It's been a long time since I posted. The madness of Christmas and New Year has long subsided and I thought I'd be able to get myself into a nice little routine of working and writing. Unfortunately, work took over as my students had exams and I was spending a lot of time preparing them (hopefully as much time as they were revising) and then it was my little sister's wedding at the weekend. I'm never been married, but if the amount of time, money and effort into being the Bride's brother is anything to go by, I think I'll need a year or two off to organise and pay for my own wedding!!! I never really realised how much an event like that took over your life as a guest let alone being the Bride or Groom. This past weekend I really started to identify with one of my own characters - Tristan from The Surrogate. That said, I am glad to report that my sister didn't seem to fall into any of the cliches from the opening chapters of the book.

It was the first major family event since I released The Surrogate, so I had a lot of interest in my book. From my Dad asking me about sales figures (I think he's counting on it being a million seller so he can retire) to more distant relations asking me where I came up with the idea or what the book is about. I also learned that one of my cousins that I don't see often is drafting her own YA novel - so keep a look out for Hayley Gelling's debut. For some people who had read the book, I got constant comparisons to Tristan, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend. I had an uncle who was trying to convince me to get married (I'll come back to this in a further post) and whenever I was playing with my niece Ella or my nephew Domenic (who at four years of age was busting out the robot (or as he called it the Bumblebee)) I was being told time and time again not to go and try and buy a child like Tristan did. It was tiring being compared to a product of my imagination, but at the same time, heartwarming that so many friends and family had read the book.

I did have a chance to do some writing prior to the wedding. I have to give a reading at the ceremony and it wasn't really until two or three days before that I got the idea for the following poem. I haven't written any poetry of note for over ten years, but as it was my sister's wedding, she asked me to prepare something on family. It was generally well received, with even the minster commenting in his sermon on how he wished he could write like that. But I'll let you judge that for yourself. I'm not sure whether it's an original idea or not, certainly I have heard parents being compared to being giants and children being called creatures before, but it was for my sister, whom I am very proud of and love dearly.

I was born into a land of giants, beneath a blanket of smiling faces,
Each with wide open eyes and gobbledygook tongues;
Such vivid colours and subtle sweet scents,
In a blurred warm sky of unconditional love.
But in the night, when I was hungry or cold
I cried out and the giants were there for me.

The giants were as tall as tall could be,
They spoke in such booming voices that I could not hear
But when they whispered, they spoke of wisdom,
Telling me stories of what I could do and who I could be.
And in the darkness, when I saw monsters in the shadows
I screamed out and the giants were there for me.

Then I saw other creatures that were just like me.
They told me in voices that were the same as mine,
That there were other giants as far as the eye could see.
I didn’t believe them, there were only my giants I’d say.
But with each passing day, I saw more and more giants.
I asked questions and the giants were there for me.

There was one giant, who was kinder than the others,
But she grew bigger and tired and one day she wasn’t there.
Another giant lifted me onto his shoulders so that I could see
The giants gathering around, all cooing and babbling
Over a little creature; one so small I could barely see
I didn’t understand it, but the giants were there for me.

One day I woke and the giants weren’t so fearsome.
No longer were they as tall as tall could be.
Other creatures wove tales of danger and adventure
While the giants gave me warnings that I didn’t believe.
When my ego was bruised and my heart was broken,
I yelled at them, but the giants were still there for me.

Then there were no more giants to see.
Just other beings that sounded and dressed like me.
Beings who taught me how to live and how to love.
How to laugh and how to dance, how to work and how to toil.
But when I faltered or struggled to make sense of the world,
I called them and the giants were there for me.

One day, as I wandered aimless and free,
I met my other and we were complete,
With small creatures like she and I had once been.
Then we became the giants, as tall as tall could be,
With gobbledygook tongues and wide open eyes.
I looked at my creatures and the giants were there for me

Now I am long past being a giant,
And the creatures have creatures of their own.
As time draws close and sleep descends
I pass on the words of giants past,
Words they once whispered to me;
Just look at your reflection and I will be there for you. 

C J Evans

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The next episode...

It's hard work being an author...even if it is only part-time. As we come up to Christmas I've been finding that my day job has been taking over somewhat - my students have exams in January and it's been revision central, knowing full well that their notes will develop a thin film of mince pie crusts mixed with beer on them over the holidays - and so my writing, promoting etc has ground to a bit of a halt lately.
I think this is the first blog post I've done in nearly a month, and the first about writing and upcoming projects for even longer.

I'm back though. I finish work for Christmas on Friday, and that means I have the opportunity to get cracking on my next project - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. This is the book I was going to write first. It's skated around in my brain since late 2001 when I was suspended from my job as a nightclub manager for accidentally locking a customer in the club overnight! The guy didn't complain, of course he didn't. He was like a kid in a candy store, but somehow head office got word of it and I spent the best part of two weeks wondering if I'd still have a job.

During those two weeks I went through a lot of emotions. The first being sleep. Finally, I could get a good night's sleep after my imitation of a bat for the previous four years. Secondly, fear. I had dropped out of my final year of university to become a nightclub manager and I thought at the time that was what I wanted to do. The late nights and partying seemed like a good thing back then, but as I sat alone in my flat for those two weeks (I was working in Dundee, quite a small town and I was keeping a low profile) I began to wonder what might have been. What if I'd stayed on and not taken the money? What if I'd chosen different A levels? What if I'd worked harder at school?

Then something bizarre happened. I got a mailer from my old school advertising an old boys dinner. I didn't think much of it until I saw a name at the bottom of the page. The name of a girl I had a crush on back at school. This was long before the days of Facebook and Friends Reunited was in it's infancy so there was little way of knowing what happened to that girl other than go to the dinner.

And that's where the idea for There Is A Light... came from. I dusted off my old PC and began to write. The first line was typically awful for a first draft - 'Suspension is something that happens to bridges, not to me.' I cringe at the thought of it. But I was pretty drunk and the excitement of getting down to writing what was originally called 'Reunion' took over. I didn't finish it. Not until I quit working in nightclubs in 2005 and was unemployed for two years. By then it had become 'This Charming Man' and went through several drafts before being submitted to agents. There was some interest, but nothing firm, and those knock-backs hit me for a couple of years until I took the plunge with 'The Surrogate'.

After a modicum of success (Top 100 humorous books Amazon UK - albeit for about an hour) and generally good feedback for 'The Surrogate' I've decided to rework 'There Is A Light...'. The main character of Callum Harrison is as close to me as I would ever allow myself to get and much of the book reflects on my own experiences of school and growing up. I just hope people enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it.

C J Evans  

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cash for Kids

It is the start of December tomorrow and at the weekend I will be going up into the attic and getting the Christmas Tree down and putting on Fairytale of New York and maybe having a beverage or tow to celebrate the start of the festive season. Christmas, that wonderful time of the year when the shops are bulging, women are fighting over turkeys in Marks and Spencer and when adults spend most of their time fluctuating between food comas and hangovers with mild spells of drunken behaviour between. Ah, Christmas.

Call me crazy (and often people do) but I think Christmas is about more that that. At Christmas, my thoughts gravitate towards those for whom it will not be a season of goodwill, but a season of getting by. For the children that are struggling to come to terms with being parted from their parents, either by illness, death, or having been put into a foster home. Some children may be suffering alongside their parents. It's been a bleak year financially for most of us, but for some people every year is a bleak year. Whether that is through losing jobs or expected expenses, Christmas can be just another day for children.

One charity that aims to help is Cash for Kids. Most local radio stations in the UK run a campaign alongside this charity, as do ASDA to try and help the less fortunate. I applaud that. Childhood should be a time of wonder and awe and Cash for Kids looks to help kids have fond memories. Which is why I am going to be donating 100% the proceeds of my book to this charity in December. I'm not rich, but I know I'm lucky. The money I would have got from the sales of my book could have benefited me and helped me buy something I didn't really need. Or I could give it to a child who needs it which is a greater reward in itself.

This Christmas, do something unselfish. It doesn't have to be much, but if we all do a little bit, then it might make a difference to somebody's life.

C J Evans

Monday, 28 November 2011

Gary Speed RIP

I was about to write about my book and the sales figures and how I'm a little bit ahead of where I wanted to be, when I read the attached article by Matthew Linley, the brother of my former flatmate. It highlights how depression and depressive illnesses can afflict the strongest of us all. The inspiration for which is the shocking news yesterday of the death of Gary Speed, the manager of the Welsh football team and former professional footballer for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United at the age of 42.

I was driving home with my uncle and my cousin from my sister's fiance's Stag weekend when I heard the news. It was a bulletin on Radio 1 and after searching through the internet I found out how it had happened. It appears Gary Speed took his own life, leaving behind two young sons and a wife. My thoughts, as are most of the country's are with them. The conversation in the car took a turn away from the frivolity of the weekend to our own understanding of depression. My uncle talked about a work colleague, while I talked about my understanding of the disease as a Psychology Lecturer. What I didn't mention was that for some years, I have suffered from depression.

Why didn't I talk about it? There is still such a stigma to suffering from mental illness. When the British boxer Frank Bruno sought medical help for his battle with depression, the vile rag that is The Sun ran the headline 'Bonkers Bruno Locked Up'. While I would dismiss using that publication to wipe my arse with, it raised an important social point. Depression is seen by many as a weakness, a flaw in one's character. I even used to think it myself, hiding from the truth. I saw myself as weak because of the way society portrayed people who suffered with the disease. There are over 6 million people in the UK receiving treatment for mental illness at the moment. Nearly 1 in 10, a greater percentage than are physically disabled and yet there is still a stigma attached to it. Maybe it's the traditional British 'stiff-upper lip' or maybe it's that not enough people understand the illness. But the real truth is, depression is prevalent in our society. It exists and yet sufferers are forced to believe that they are weak.  They are anything but.

People  who suffer from depression face a double battle; one with themselves trying to conquer the feelings of hopelessness and despair even during those moments that others would consider to be happy ones. And they face a social battle, of having to cope with public perceptions of others that somehow they are lesser individuals because of their affliction. As Dorothy Rowe once said, 'Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer'.
Here's a list of people with depression and ask yourself are these people worth any less than me because of what they suffer?

Leo Tolstoy, author
Charles Dickens, English author,
John Keats, poet,
Michelangelo, artist
Bette Midler, entertainer
Charles Schultz, cartoonist
Dick Clark, entertainer
Irving Berlin, composer
Rosemary Clooney, singer
Jimmy Piersall, baseball player. Boston Red Sox
Burgess Meredith, actor,
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky, composer
Charlie Pride, singer
Sylvia Plath, poet and novelist.
Janet Jackson, singer
Patty Duke, actress,
Roseanne Barr, comedian
Marlon Brando, actor
Maurice Bernard, actor
Buzz Aldrin, astronaut
Margot Kidder, Actress
Jonathon Winters, comedian
Pat Conroy, author
Ernest Hemingway, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist,
Tennessee Williams, American playwright

And I didn't even mention Stephen Fry, Kurt Cobain, Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Van Gough, John Kirwan, Stan Collymore, Marcus Trescothick, Paul Gascoigne or many others.

Depression is not a weakness except in the eyes of the general public and it's about time that changed.