Exactly as the title suggests, the twenty-first and final draft of Storytellers arrived from my editor this morning.

The dream I had many years ago inspired the first draft. I was somewhat sick, but not too sick to type, so I wrote it down within the first two weeks of January 2017. At the end of September 2017 I sent what was in my head the final version to the editor, asking only for grammar and spelling corrections. Sixteen months later we both declared the book ready. January 1, 2017 – January 28, 2019. Exactly two years and twenty-eight days.

Obviously, I didn’t spend every single day working on those drafts. When the book was with the editor, I busied myself writing an outline for another book that didn’t work, two drafts for God of Fire which is now in my “perhaps one day in the far future” folder, and recently started rewriting the Norse mythology as a character-driven epic fantasy series. I don’t mind revealing that, because the idea is the easiest part of writing a book…

 

Idea

It all starts with the idea. Many people say they have no ideas. I believe this, generally, to not be true. If you ever looked at your ex and thought “I wish you’d fall into a sewer during the first walk with your new girlfriend”, you came up with an idea you could elaborate on. You, or rather your heroine who would definitely not be you at all, could curse the ex – every time he went on a date, something awful would happen to him. Instead of a werewolf, he could be a wererat or a werecockroach. If you had a conversation and came up with the perfect answer half an hour earlier, you came up with an idea you could write down. Once you had enough of those mini-ideas, you could start writing.

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‘Tis almost the time to start working on New Year’s resolutions. But I’m old and decrepit, and have enough experience with those. Before you make NY resolutions, be aware that:

  1. You’ll probably decide New Year’s Day is a holiday anyway, then Jan 2 is when you have to go to work which is UNFAIR, then the weekend is coming, and you’ll reluctantly get to it on Jan 7, already feeling guilty. (Or is it just me?)
  2. You’ll totally adhere to them for approximately 17 days. (Or is it just me?)
  3. Your reserve to avoid sweets will begin to crumble when your significant other tells you his colleague Jerry did something. At this point your brain will start flashing BEN & JERRY in huge, red lights. (Or is it just me?)
  4. Your decision to go to the gym five times a week will begin to crumble when you realise how many weeks there are per year. (Or is it just me?)
  5. You’ll be ready to start preparing NY resolutions for 2020 around the 25th of January, 2019. (That will NOT be me.)

Instead of resolutions, this year I am trying to have goals. The nice thing with goals is that they’re not a binary 0/1 made it/failed sort of thing, unless you decide to torment yourself by thinking like this, at which point you’ve made New Year’s resolutions, then called it something else.

Imagine that on January 1 you give yourself a goal to become a bazillionaire. (Note the lack of “…before December 31st”.) At the end of the year, you find yourself being a mere multi-millionaire. If it were a resolution, being a mere multi-millionaire would constitute a big FAIL. Since it’s a goal, you’re doing tremendously well. Also, you’re now my best friend and can I borrow $100,000 please?

Without further ado, here are my goals for 2019…

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I taught myself to read when I was four years old. This is neither an exaggeration nor a joke. I was one of those kids who wanted one out of three books (very short ones, but still) read every single evening over and over and over again. Eventually, my grandparents and mom had enough and told me “you memorised all those books by now”. They were correct. I was smart enough to notice there was a connection between the written words and the ones my mom said out loud. I became a minor sensation in the neighbourhood, but I had no interest in fame and fortune. I just wanted to read, and once I was done with my three kids’ books I found out that there were hundreds of books in our house.

I started plundering through the adult library without anybody really noticing – how would a 4-year-old manage to read science-fiction or blood-dripping thrillers? In the beginning, the answer was “slowly”. When I got to school and we had to learn each letter separately, then read sentences along the lines of “Anna has a cat” I couldn’t figure out what all that was about. I decided that probably we had to memorise the texts, because otherwise what was the point? Once I memorised the two lines that were our homework, I went back to my Kir Bulychov books.

I remember being seven or eight, reading a book that had a sex scene of some sort in it, and being bewildered as to why someone would want to do ewww-y things like this – or even write about them. Hello? SENTIENT ROBOTS! Stop the stupid thing and tell me more about the murderous robots! Nobody noticed I went through my stepfather’s entire collection of thrillers, horrors, crime stories before turning 10. But then what books were suitable for my age back in the 1980s? Dumb ones, I decided, then went back to Stephen King.

Around the age of 13, I discovered the local library had THOUSANDS of books available. It was free, and you could borrow six books per person, or per library card. I got three cards – for my mom, my brother, and myself. That gave us a total of 18 books. Every month I would borrow 15 books for myself, three for my mom, and, er, my brother liked football. I didn’t go by genre, I went alphabetically section per section without paying much attention to the genre. I ate those books. Once I discovered Julio Cortazár’s Hopscotch I went to the librarian and asked innocently what would happen if someone, theoretically, of course, lost a book. The librarian somehow guessed that someone would be me and told me the person would immediately lose their access to the library.

What kind of hateful monster! (The book was, of course, out of print.)

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