Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Why did you decide to become a writer and why a crime writer?" by Catriona

I wanted to be a writer my whole life, ever since my big sisters taught me to read and write, playing at schools when we were wee.

But it took me till I was thirty-five to take the plunge. Thing is I didn't know any writers, I'd never even met any writers and it was outside the scope of my dreams. (Does anyone else remember finding out that books didn't just exist, like rocks or rivers, but that someone had made them? I do.)

So I went to university to study English literature, and that might have been the springboard right there, right? Except the way English literature was studied sucked all the joy out of novels for me.  So I switched to linguistics, and fiction went back to being fun on the sidelines again.

After I graduated, I went to work in a library. Another near miss, because I was a long way from the fiction, working in the local history department. After two years of swithering between a postgraduate degree in library science and more linguistics, I plumped for linguistics and did a PhD.

There's a sort of a greased slope with steep sides, when you're doing a PhD. In your last year you apply for academic jobs along with everyone else. So I did. And I got one. It was in a school of English, forty literature scholars and four lonely linguists. Again, I was brushing up pretty close to a lo-ho-hot of fiction. And again I hated it more every day. That job, that place, sucked even more joy even more thoroughly out of even more kinds of literature. Novels, poetry and plays all started to feel grey and pointless.

One night, when I was moaning to my friend about how much I hated my job, she asked why I didn't do something else. I told her there was nothing else within reason I wanted to do. The only thing I really wanted to do was write fiction. There was a long silence as a big unspoken bubble of 'Duh' formed over us. The next day (in my memory, but then I make things up for a living) I resigned.

I sat down to write the first word of my first book on the first of January 2001 and have loved every day since, have never had a full day of undiluted regret.

Twenty-something books later, I don't regret the first thirty-five years. Not even the five years teaching at the University of Deathly Despond. The way I look at it now is the only way to get where I am is the way I came and there's nowhere I'd rather be.

And why crime fiction?  Come on!  It's all of the above plus a wit-pitting puzzle to boot. What's not to love?


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Sounds like you made the right choice, Catriona.

Unknown said...

I had a sneaking suspicion books were written by people quite early on, but not till I got published did I realize they're mere mortals like me. Nice post, Catriona.

Susan C Shea said...

"Playing school" triggered a memory for me. My poor kid brother and sister having to get spelling lessons sitting under a bush in the yard, writing - get this - on leaves with our fingernails. Sadly, I agree with you that academics can take the fun out of the great and juicy stories written over the last few hundred years. So very, very glad you jumped ship!

RJ Harlick said...

Loved "the sucked the joy out of reading novels". My experience exactly. Probably my reason for fleeing English classes as soon as I could. Great post. Great journey to where you are today.

Ann said...

I’m so glad you fell off that horse when you did. This morning I was thinking about who writes the bewks i most anticipate, and your name came tight up at the top of the list.

Love, your stalker.