Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hello and Welcome - Debbie Bennett

For my first post, I thought I’d just introduce myself and tell you a little bit about how I got here to this blog. I’m a writer, yes – but like all writers, I was a reader first, and an early reader too. I remember my dad bringing me home a Famous Five (Enid Blyton) book every Friday evening – they were 17½p in shiny new decimal money. Yes, I am that old. I’d spend Saturday reading and by Sunday I’d be asking my parents why I couldn’t go camping on my own at age 7 like the kids did in the book.

I grew up. Age 12 and I was reading Ruby Ferguson’s pony books – all terribly upper class with lashings of ginger beer. Then there was Malcolm Saville and Nancy Drew and then – nothing. That was it; the end of children’s books and straight into adult novels. Books for older teenagers and young adults just didn’t exist in the late 70s, so while I was cutting my adult reading teeth on John Wyndham and Robert Heinlein, I started writing the kind of books I wanted to read. I still have my first novel – handwritten in a fancy ring binder and complete with one-dimensional characters, who did exactly what I as the author wanted them to do. It was teenage thriller and it was doubtless a form of catharsis, a way of exploring some of the relationships – or lack of them – that I was having with boys! That finished, I wrote a sequel and then combined the two books into one and typed them up laboriously on a manual typewriter (stay with me, we’re not in the computer age yet).

By this time, I’d done Heinlein and Wyndham and moved on to Robert Sheckley, Michael Elder and all the plain yellow-covered Robert Hale science fiction books that the library stocked. Asimov, Pohl, Blish – all the classics. So naturally my writing followed suit and I started writing an sf novel set on a far future earth where the only remnants of civilisation were medieval castles. Throw in a bit of time travel (something that has always fascinated me) and some fantasy elements and I was on a roll again with novel number 3.

Liverpool university and I discovered the student library and authors such as Stephen Donaldson, Stephen King and the fantasy genre. A whole new world of reading. And a bloke who was possibly the most influential man in my life – apart from my husband. His name was Sean and while we were never boy/girlfriend, we were close mates and spent long hours in each other’s company. Sean was into fantasy role-playing and introduced me to the whole fantasy sub-culture – wargaming, live role-playing, a different group of people to hang around with. There was always somebody to talk to and make chain mail with between lectures! And I started to write a novel set in the world of live fantasy role-playing; characters within characters and all very pretentious, but it kept me busy when student budgets were low and I didn’t have a tv.

Fast-forward a few years and I’m married and living in London. I headed off to Southampton for my very first writers’ conference – it’s now Winchester Writers’ Conference and I recommend it to anyone for the networking opportunities. It was here I got marginalised for writing “weird stuff” and met kindred spirit Jan Edwards, who has probably been my closest friend ever since. We joined the British Fantasy Society together and I made the mistake of writing to the BFS newsletter commenting on something – turned out the editor David Howe lived a few miles up the road and he politely told me “if I thought I could do better ...” And I started writing fantasy.

I’ve been involved with the BFS now for over 20 years. Held the membership database for over 16 of those years, 9 years of editing BFS publications – newsletters, fiction anthologies, convention magazines – and I’ve sat on over 10 FantasyCon convention committees. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and eat/drink with most of the authors who have influenced me as a writer. During those years I was writing predominantly fantasy, and published several short stories (see my kindle collection Maniac & Other Stories). But the doorstep trilogies got bigger and I began experimenting with other genres – reading and writing. I now write thrillers and my debut kindle novel Hamelin’s Child was long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award.

This e-reader revolution is awesome. My wonderful dad bought me a kindle early this year and I was hooked. For the first time I can read what I choose and not what an agent/editor has chosen for me. I’ve read bad and I’ve read good – but that’s no different from my experiences as a traditional book-buyer. The advantage of kindle is that I can sample for free and the ebook is often inexpensive to buy.

So that’s me. Debbie Bennett, aged (whispers) 47 and I’m an author. I hope to share with you my views on writing and reading in general and maybe the highlights of my journey down this indie publishing road. There are links on my own blog to other writers I admire - indie and traditional - and my fellow-bloggers here are all great writers. I hope we can entertain you.

3 comments:

Katherine said...

Ah, yes, Ruby Ferguson's pony books! I'm about the same age as you, Debbie, and can remember vividly that "lurch" from the children's library into the adult library as a teenager (I had to borrow my mum's ticket because technically I was too young.)

At first I despaired of finding any good stories in the adult section, and then I discovered Gollancz's yellow spines... and eventually discovered the British Fantasy Society. Today, I suspect you would find most of those Gollancz yellow spines published for the YA market. Same stories. Different shelf.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that rings a bell here too - and thge suspicious looks from the librarian as I drifted across from the childrens to the adults section in search of something new to read ...

Emma Barnes said...

Ruby Ferguson - so funny, so witty and full of very believeable adventure - what wonderful books.

I'm also interested to hear about the way you have moved between genres - as my kindle book, when I finally get it up there, is a move into fantasy/adventure for me.