Lock up your puppies

Writers are asked a lot of questions. Where do you get your ideas from? How do you corral your thoughts? What’s your favourite cheese?

The one question I dread is: Why did you write this book? Especially when it’s asked in an accusing tone. As if I’d just kicked a puppy.

It’s not so bad when the emphasis is on the this.  When the emphasis is on the why — not so good.

I usually respond with what I call the reverse mountaineer’s defence. When a mountain climber is asked Why did you climb that mountain, the traditional response is: Because it was there.

When I’m asked Why did you write that book, I say: Because it wasn’t there.

It’s all about the creation. The taking of an idea, nurturing it with love and attention, building it out like layers of papier mâché, until it is round and robust and intriguing, and finally, in what was once vacant space, there is a story. Hopefully, it will be a story that will take the reader on a journey that will leave them breathless, and exhilarated and challenged. A trek through the imagination that is entirely satisfying, but also has the reader hankering for more. I want my readers to be little Oliver Twists, holding out their gruel bowls and making with the puppy eyes.


It doesn’t always turn out that way of course. Not everyone is going to like what you create. I once asked a hall full of kids whether they thought one of my books would make a good movie. They all cheered, Yes! Except for their teacher, slumped in the back row, arms crossed over her chest, shaking her frowning head.

There was no gruel bowl and puppy eyes from her.

But you can’t take it to heart otherwise you’d never write anything. And while there are thousands of mountains to climb, there is an infinite number of empty spaces out there, just waiting to be filled with stories.

1 Response so far

  1. 1

    zackids said,

    And thank goodness you filled that empty space with your Billionaire Series, Richard! I love your characters and their adventures.

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