Becoming a storyteller has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. So how, exactly, did that happen?
Somewhere in the house I have a page from a book lovingly preserved by my mother. It’s a page of questions, with my answers written in by hand.
Name: Allan James Julius Scott (‘Julius’ was down to my father, naming a Caesarian baby. My mother wisely vetoed ‘Caesar’…)
Age: 4 3/4 (obviously I couldn’t grow up fast enough…)
When I grow up I’d like to be: a engin driver (sic – and well, I loved my model railway…)
Or: a king (never let it be said I lacked ambition)
Sadly (or luckily, perhaps) I did neither of those things. Because what I really wanted to be was a writer.
My first effort – not long after filling in that page – was a little illustrated booklet called Animals of the World. My parents had got me a weekly part-work encyclopaedia called Knowledge, and I’d become fascinated by some of the animals, like the Australian Thorny Devil lizard, that I’d learned about there.
As a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine my next effort, once again illustrated, was a story of my own about Thomas. Derivative, inevitably, but more or less mine own.
It’d be a few more years before I tried something more ambitious, but after my first reading of Lord of the Rings I was moved to write my first novel, Journey to an Unknown Planet. My wonderful father dutifully typed up my manuscript so I could have a more readable copy for posterity. It’s still around, somewhere – loaded with imagination, and packed, inevitably, with spaceships and dinosaurs. So not a literary masterpiece, but at least demonstrating my ability to deliver a sustained piece of fiction.
As a teenager – and after rereading Lord of the Rings – I had another go with Sons of the Horse God. This was a fairly substantial fantasy novel bedecked with purple passages and – on a recent rereading – also loaded with many powerful ideas. What it lacked was a real character-driven plot. The hero is a loner – rather like his author – and the heroine, while feisty and courageous, spends rather too much time as a victim and not enough as a mover and shaker.
And there’s way too much self-indulgence in describing the world I had created.
I was still working on the story when I got to university, by which time my long-suffering father – very wisely – had persuaded me to master touch typing. It’s a skill that stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.
By now my imagination was working overtime, constantly delivering new ideas. What I lacked – then – was the ability to corral those ideas to create a structured story. One that would keep, and hold, my reader’s attention. Like any writer, I needed to learn my craft…