I always wanted to write. Always. As a very young child I wrote short stories about an orphan called Annabelle who became the charge of a wealthy family and had lots of crime fighting adventures wearing crinolines. When I was I around nine, my primary school teacher asked all the pupils in my class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some said nurses, others said fire-fighters. There may have been one or two doctors or policeman in there too. Bizarrely, I think one may have said accountant. When it came to me, I proudly said “Author”.
So what happened? Why did it take the best part of twenty years for me to become one? Like many people, I have very diverse interests. I loved history through my academic life, as well as English and the classics. I also happened to be very good at art. Nobody seems to encourage kids to think of writing as a profession and my experience is no different. Relatively bright academically, that’s where my focus was driven and I was happy enough. There were plenty of things I found interesting. It wasn’t all about hitting the books though, my skill with a pencil and charcoal was picked up on, and until I was around sixteen I was pretty certain I would study Art at university. I was incredibly frustrated with the way art was taught in school and controversially decided not to take it any further, abandoning it in favour of A Levels in English, History and Sociology and then later with a degree in Sociology (with English Literature and Philosophy in the first year).
My career trajectory looked like it might be an academic one and for a while I entertained the thought of studying the social sciences further, lecturing even. Despite it all though, nothing ever seemed to feel quite right. Once I graduated I had a run of sales and marketing jobs, including in the construction industry, and ended up working for a specialist company. My career in recruitment lasted for more than ten years, with every day a success but leaving me feeling decidedly hollow. Good works, volunteering, working with the disadvantaged – nothing seemed to fill that gap.
Then something peculiar happened. I am a huge fan of fitness and lifestyle guru Jillian Michaels and I can attribute much of my relationship to writing to her. Why? I was driving in my car one day, listening to her podcast. She was talking about living a fulfilling life and building a career out of something you love. I immediately bought her book Unlimited, which outlines a framework for building an exceptional life. One of the elements in working out what you should be doing with your life is thinking about what you wanted to do as a kid and find a way of doing that, or something akin to it, now. That’s most likely to be the thing your core self wants and would make you happy – the things that you would love to do if society would stop telling you what you should do for a minute. It might not be entirely possible of course. You may not have the talent to make it as a pop star, but perhaps you could teach music, work in a studio or open a music store!
I looked back and thought – writer, I’m writer! But what should I write about. I had a couple of failed starts. Once was a Christmas story for children set in an alternative universe (I will work that out and finish it one day… this year if things go to plan). I also tried to write a few short stories, some of which I published in Off the Bench. Then an idea came to me – a vampire book with a female lead who was on the face of it ordinary and one who wasn’t going to fall in love with vampires. I wanted to write the type of book I would have liked to have read in my early twenties. With that ‘Relative Strangers: A Modern Vampire Story’ and the Sophie Morgan vampire series was born.
Writing Relative Strangers was very much a work of pleasure. I put no pressure on myself and when I published it as an eBook, I honestly didn’t expect anyone to buy it. When people began downloaded and reviewing it was amazed. Yet I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I didn’t even tell friends. My husband and mother knew… that’s it!
The initial flurry of sales gave me a boost and I decided to publish in paperback using Createspace. The rise of print-on-demand services for authors is a wonderful thing. It means we can reach a broader audience. For me, it was printing in paperback that made me feel like an author. When my first bundle of printed copies arrived I carefully thumbed their pages and smelled the contents. I ran my fingers over the cover and loved the touch. It was everything that I hoped it would be. I took three copies and stacked them on my bookshelf, sat back and admired them. Did I feel like a writer yet? Almost, but not quite. Then someone bought one. Then a friend asked for some signed copies as gifts. EBook sales have outstripped paperback sales considerably, but there is something about looking at those hard copies on my shelf that, yes, I am a writer.
Helen Treharne is the creator of the developing “Sophie Morgan Vampire Series” as well as short stories and other prose. Helen lives with her husband, three cats, an entrenched tea addiction and an increasing collection of stringed instruments. When she’s not writing she spends her time daytime hours working in communications and volunteers for a feline welfare charity. She also runs a very successful book blog, reviewing and promoting the work of other indie authors. She also can’t stop purchasing stationery. She can be found at her blog, Facebook page and on Twitter.