Discover … The power of the ‘HhhuuuUUTTT!’Ever feel you are living the wrong life? Ever feel another life, your should-be life, is out there waiting for you, if only you had the courage to …Do you like tinned pineapple chunks? Have you answered yes to any of those questions? Then follow the Purple-Bellied Parrot on a rip-roaring, globe-spanning adventure packed with unforgettable characters. His quest to live his should-be life.It Begins: In the sterile apartment of a city executive with unruly nasal hair where the Purple-Bellied Parrot cannot even do the very thing he was born to do. It Ends: On the shores of a distant land after an epic journey which tests his courage, his ingenuity and the bonds of friendship — to the limit.The Purple-Bellied Parrot is a spell-binding, life-affirming tale, with the power to evoke laughter and tears from readers 11-100 years old. (Parental Note: contains occasional mild imprecations.)
Why I Write
Escapism. For me writing is like being on a first date. That knocking noise from the central heating, broadband speed disgruntlement, existential angst, the passage of time, hunger, thirst, aches and pains, all vanish. My whole self is consumed by the page before me and what I am trying to construct.
I write because I want the reader to view a thing, be it commonplace or singular, from an aspect hitherto neglected and apprehend something new. It could be a tree or the international wild-bird trade or friendship or traffic or a sunset. I want the reader to come away thinking, yes, I never looked at it that way. Landscape painting has been dismissed as a lower form of art. The great landscape painters, however, lead you to perceive, even in the most ostensibly banal view, some new truth.
I write because I enjoy and esteem craft skills. Crafts persons, people who can actually make stuff, are scandalously undervalued. I have been a carpenter and cabinet maker. In my 20s I became fascinated by the craft of bricklaying, and I still build my own walls whenever I get the opportunity. I enjoy watching craftsmen and women at work, their effortless dexterity. It is creative: there is nothing; then there is something.
Writing is 95% craft. Most people could learn it if they took the trouble, and the more you practice, the better you get. I play guitar, and people say to me, ‘Oh, I wish I could play the guitar,’ and I say, ‘Well, learn.’
So I enjoy the craft of constructing a story, solving problems of structure, syntax, point of view, voice (the hardest!), word choice, even grammar. I can spend half an hour thinking about whether that clause works better at the beginning or the end of a sentence. I especially enjoy editing, when I discover that the bit I thought was essential to support the whole edifice can be knocked out, and nothing falls down — and it even looks better without it. And rather than having the door there, I think it’ll make a better entrance further along. Those bricks I thought were perfect at the time, well they clash and will have to be chopped out and replaced. And the thing about skilled crafts persons: they work fast. So sometimes I’ll dash out a piece and see if it stands up. (I’ll stop now before this metaphor collapses under excessive strain.)
I write because I want to earn a living from writing. This is difficult. Sometimes I think impossible. I am not a celebrity. I didn’t go to a posh school and have a chum in publishing. I don’t seek to pander to current fads in publishing — indeed I don’t know what they are (apart from grumplit …).
I was at conference recently and an agent said that they get around 20,000 submissions a year, from which they might choose four new novels. And if you do become one of the chosen, it is two or three years until you make it onto the shelves, and then you might make 7% from the sales if you are lucky. What is the point? Professional writing is becoming an exclusive field, which only the comfortably off can afford to enter. Which is why I chose to risk the disdain of ‘proper’ writers and independently publish (that, and I’m no spring chicken!)
Ah, if you had the talent you’d succeed, I hear you chunter. True, I may not have the talent, no matter how much I hone my craft. I went to university as a mature student and before I did I attended an ‘are you too thick for university’ course at my local college (they called it ‘Access to Higher Education’). One of my subjects was ‘Creative Writing,’ which I took with sundry unemployed, single mums, empty-nesters, dopeheads and the desperate. One week we studied poetry. We were asked to write some.
I was pretty pleased with mine. One of the topics was Childhood, and I still remember the first line: ‘Spat out, whelped.’ Powerful stuff, eh? I recall feeling chuffed after I read it out to class. Clearly superior to the ham-fisted attempts of my motley classmates.
There was a guy on the course, skinny, curly hair, didn’t engage with his classmates much apart from a similarly skinny lank-haired girl. He stood up, and what he read out was brilliant. I can’t remember a single word from it. I just remember sitting goggle-mouthed, knocked out by the power of the imagery, the sheer range and lucidity of his imagination, his off-the-wall but perfect selection of vocabulary, and the fact that I could never, ever, write anything that good. Now, he had talent. He had that 5%. I just hope my craft skills might compensate.
Thank you, William Fagus and Random Things Tours.
About the author
The publicity-shy William Fagus lives in a remote location in an upturned fishing smack with a parrot and sundry antique musical instruments and carpentry tools.
The redoubtable Mrs Lush, his cleaning lady and confidant, is his most frequent visitor.