Being an inquisitive type I’m often curious to know what writers did before they took up the pen, so over the next few weeks I’m inviting a number of authors to spill the beans on life before words.
We begin with Dave Sivers, author of murderously good crime fiction, whose recently released Dead In Deep Water has shot to #4 on Kindle Serial Killers.
My mum passed away in January, so I’ve been thinking about her a lot this year. She was a great reader – always magazines, never novels until quite late in life. She read to me every day, taught me to read before I started school, and gave me an early and abiding love of stories.
By the time I was six, I was already writing my own little books, although, if I’m honest, they were probably ‘influenced’ by what I was reading to the point of wholesale plot theft. So what? I had already discovered the thing I enjoyed doing more than anything else.
In my second year at primary school, our teacher – Miss Jones – read us C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in daily episodes. It was more complex and imaginative than anything I had read before, and opened my eyes to what a ‘proper’ book was. I went through all the Narnia books, Enid Blyton, Capt W E (Biggles) Johns, and many of the classics.
Looking back, I’ve always done some sort of writing. I started a newspaper at junior school, contributed to one at grammar school, then left education at 16 and joined the civil service. Over the next 40 years, I built a career, got married, and moonlighted as a bookie’s clerk and nightclub bouncer; but I also submitted my first short story to The Evening News (long before I learned that the product has to match the market) and saw my first published work in the shape of a letter to The Economist.
In the early 80s, I got an agent for my first full-length novel, but he could never find a publisher for a family saga about a footballer (yes, I know, I know…). We parted our ways, I got a couple more ‘positive rejections’ for books, and then I put writing aside for six years to do an Open University degree, mostly in literature. The work made my reading so much more analytical that it would be some years before I could enjoy a book for its own sake again.
In the 90s, I stumbled into writing village news for two local newspapers and used the experience to start getting articles in county magazines. But it was always fiction that I really wanted to do.
Along the way, I collected some more ‘positive rejections’. I kept coming close, but the world kept turning and it wasn’t happening. When I took early retirement from the day job, I quickly concluded that I could either go on – maybe forever – waiting for the nod, or give up (never an option); or something had to change.
I had a few novels that had received really good feedback, and eBooks were taking off, so I decided to test the water with two hybrid ‘crime fantasy’ novels featuring Lowmar Dashiel – a private eye-type character in a sword and sorcery world. They gained an appreciative but small audience, but taught important lessons that I drew on when I released my first contemporary crime title, The Scars Beneath the Soul, introducing detectives Archer and Baines, and the recent sequel, Dead in Deep Water. Archer and Baines seem popular, and I’m pleased with how the books have been doing.
My status is semi-retired, which means I’m still fitting writing in with a lot of other stuff – but I have control over when I write and complete control over publication dates, cover design etc. My writing is finally taking more of a centre stage in my life, and I’m loving it!
Dave Sivers: The Scars Beneath the Soul – the debut crime novel available from the
Visit the website at www.davesivers.co.uk