The Other Me

The Other Me

‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part I’

Writing remained my life. One day, I’d be successful, self-sufficient, because there was money in writing – not that’s why I was doing it. I wanted to tell stories. But a career in writing was the goal – a career in something I loved doing. How many people could boast that?

I finished the latest draft of Book One of the NEXT GREAT FANTASY EPIC, but it sat there. I should’ve prepared it, sent it somewhere, but I didn’t. It wasn’t the fear of failure. It was dealing with people. With professionals. Ringing them. Talking to them. Writing to them. I could imagine it in my head, but that’s all it was: imagining. The prospect incapacitated me. These were professionals. I was me. Even if that wasn’t the case, just the idea of putting myself out there was incomprehensible.

I began another fantasy epic. It wasn’t even Book Two of the NEXT GREAT FANTASY EPIC but another fantasy book entirely. Because, what was I doing trying to pitch and write a whole series? It would be better if I began with a singular book. But I was convinced that book had to be an epic. It would be huge – over one thousand pages.

So I wrote again. Wrote and wrote. Most of the time I worked on that book, entitled Midnight’s Dawning. Sometimes I had short story ideas, and would take a break from the book to write these. When the short story ideas occurred to me, they played out in my head like movies. It’s the way my head worked, the way it broke things down – in images and narrative.

Writing became me. I wrote until I finished that book also. And then the same thing happened. I reread it, proofed and corrected it, printed it out and got people to read it, got positive feedback, but never did anything with it. And after finishing this book, I had no compunction to return to Book Two of the NEXT GREAT FANTASY EPIC. Same thing happened with whatever short stories I wrote. Once they were finished, they just sat there. I only ever sent a couple away, albeit with no luck.

While I was writing, I bartended for a reception hall my village had bought. For years, the people from my village who’d migrated to Australia would hold functions – dances, balls, BBQs, and picnics. Inevitably, many of them chipped in and bought a reception hall on behalf of the village.

The job agency also contacted me, and decided to become to more proactive in finding me a job. They sent me to another work-placement agency specialising in dealing with people who had injuries – my injuries being the broken arm I’d had when I was sixteen (which had left my right arm and hand a bit weaker), and the anxiety.

My case officer, Miranda, was in her late twenties and a very sympathetic woman. I listed all the physical problems I’d had since I was a teenager. There was a whole lot besides the broken arm – a gashed elbow, slight stress fractures in my feet, damaged knees, a broken nose, and on and on the list went. When I was done, I added that I’d had a nervous breakdown when I was nineteen. Miranda said she wasn’t surprised.

Miranda talked to me about my aspirations, and gave me aptitude tests that showed I was creative, and listed a couple of possible careers for me. One was a judge, which wasn’t something I was going to go into. In terms of real prospects, the only thing I had was bartending. On the strength of the bartending work I’d done for my village, Miranda booked me in to do a full bartending course. But she also encouraged me to keep writing, and told me I should again look at drama.

So, even as I did the bartending course, I booked into a drama course I’d done years ago. One of the teachers, Mike, was a director who’d made a couple of movies, and directed some comedy for TV. Once I got to know him a bit better, I asked him if he was interested in seeing any screenplays – not that I had any. He said if I put them in his hand, he’d read them.

Screenwriting was something that had occurred to me on two fronts: one) some of my short stories were more like films than short stories; two) I’d had an idea for a TV series, called Streets of Fire.

I went to the library and researched the format of screenplays, since I had no idea how they should be written. The library wasn’t much help, although I did find a couple of books that looked at stage-plays. Oh well, how different could they be?

Over the next fortnight, I wrote two screenplays: one was the pilot for Streets of Fire; the other was an adaptation of a short story, Special Detail, an action-comedy involving a cop versus the mob and corrupt cops type of story. It wasn’t much, but helped me get to know the screenplay format.

I gave them to Mike and hassled him for the next month. I also gave them to one of the other drama teachers, Pierre, who read them and loved them, saying he was shocked I had this talent in me. Of course, everybody was shocked when I showed any literary talent – probably because I looked like such a hoon, likelier to be knocking over a gas station than writing anything. When Mike finally read them, he told me he didn’t like the stories themselves much, but told me not to worry, because I could write.

About a month later, he hired me to write a feature screenplay about bikers and a robbery – a modern-day western. I knew nothing about bikers and went into full research mode, reading about them and structuring the story in my head.

Now, I felt I was on the right track.