My Guest Writer this week is the delightful Debbie Ioanna, who I met at the UK Indie Lit Fest recently.
Debbie kindly agreed to write a guest post for me about her writing journey:
I have always wanted to be a writer. That is such a cliché, right? To be honest, I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. When I was younger I wanted to be an actor, or a comedian, then a vet, at one point a nun (after watching Sister Act), also a teacher (until I realised I would have to interact with children) and various other short lived dreams. But being a writer was something only people in London did. All the big books got published down there, nothing ever happened in Bradford. Not for normal people anyway.
As a child, up until my mid-teens, my mum took me shopping every week and I would always hit the book section of WHSmiths or Waterstones and pick out my next read. (The Waterstones store in Bradford is a fascinating, historical building that everyone needs to visit). Books were so magical. They took me to another world, whether it was a kid mixing marvellous medicine or a boy discovering he was a wizard. Could I imagine back then that I would have my own books written and for sale? Absolutely not!
When I was sixteen, way back in 2004, I wrote my first book. Well, not quite. English GCSE coursework called for a short story leading up to someone running away, and it was to be called ‘Homeless’. Writing it, and fighting my way towards a B grade, I decided I didn’t want it to end at someone running away, I wanted to create a life for my character after they had run away. And so, ‘The Runaway Girl’ was born. Would I try to submit it to a publisher though? What was the point? So, I held on to it, for over ten years.
In 2016, after a prosecco fuelled discussion with my best friend (who lived and worked in London) she threw out a phrase I had never heard before. ‘Publish it yourself, be an indie author’. Thinking I had supped a little too much prosecco, I asked her to elaborate. She explained that people now forgo the traditional publishing route and publish their own work, and that I absolutely HAD to give it a go!
So, I did. That September, ‘The Runaway Girl’ was officially on sale on Amazon. All of a sudden, I could google myself and find the book that I wrote, how crazy was that?
I never planned on writing a second book. What on earth could I write about?
I suddenly had an urge to read a scary book. The kind that made you too scared to turn the light out at night. I found a few and got myself tucked up in bed each night, the duvet ready to hide under from the scary ghosts, but each of the books left me disappointed. Nothing was scary. I felt so let down and decided then that I should write my own!
‘Abberton House’ was so much fun to write. Mainly because I stupidly wrote late at night, in winter, when the darkness set in very early. Many nights I ended up freaking myself out, thinking I had a poltergeist on my upstairs landing when really it was my own cats running around chasing each other! In April 2017, it was ready and published for all the world to read.
As time went on, I started to wonder how I could write something different. Something funny. In particular, my hilarious dating disasters but in a way that people would not know it was directly about me. Could I put it in my blog? No, too obvious. How could I do it? There were so many stories that needed telling. I had to share them. How could I do it?
Suddenly, the opportunity was at my fingertips.
Whilst studying Creative Writing with the Open University, I wrote a short story titled ‘Blind Date’. A thirty year old woman is set up on a terrible blind date by her best friend and it is cringe-tastic. And suddenly… I had my chance.
The short story suddenly became a full novel jam-packed with witty stories. The real achievement is that I wrote it whilst on maternity leave with a new-born baby. ‘Blind Date’ has been a small scale success for me. The feedback has been unbelievable, and it was almost a sell-out at a book festival I attended in 2019.
It is by far my favourite book that I have written. I have been told that witty humour is my ‘niche’ but really, that attitude comes naturally to me. My blogs (or rants as I’d rather call them) that I started only a couple of years ago are evident of that. I can be serious, of course, but I love knowing that something I have written has people laughing out loud. Maybe that childhood dream of being a comedian is still there.
It has been three years since ‘The Runaway Girl’ was published and so much has changed. I am no longer the closet writer; I am a fully-fledged author and blogger. Some of my mummy blogs have even featured on parenting websites. I have also stretched my wings a little further and become a book reviewer and proof reader. I am slowly edging my way to giving up the day job to have a career focused around writing. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful dream?