How Parents and Childhood Shape Authors

16/06/19 | By Chris Bell

It's Father’s Day. That time of year when we all run out and buy the old feller a random card with some amusing comment about age or being cool on the front, and then struggle to work out what present to get, because you’re either a bit vague on what he likes or he’s got everything anyway. I always settled for getting my dad a set of whiskies to sample (which on reflection, was encouragement to consume liquids he really shouldn’t).

This one will be the second since my dad passed away (mum went the year after, been a bit rough). It lands one day before he went, so I suspect that it would be easy to let oneself slide down a dark path that day. Instead, I want to look at things a little differently.

I got to thinking about what both of my parents brought to my writing career. My parents split when I was very young – I spent most of my time with Mum – so they both had different influences. Mum bought me a ton of books, gave me my first library card, put up with much of my weirdness. I didn’t see so much of Dad when I visited – he worked a lot of night shifts – but there’s still an influence. You see, we all name our favourite author when asked ‘Who was your biggest influence as a writer?’

But who made the tools available?

Dad would always nick a ton of paper and pens and ring binders from his work, and what kid wouldn’t use such an almost unlimited supply to create everything from his imagination? I’m not kidding, there was piles of the stuff, and I can’t think of anything better to get those creative gremlins riled up. Pictures initially, usually battle scenes from Star Wars (my own further adventures of). These looked a bit static, so I moved onto my own mini comics. Space battles, ninjas, anything remotely exciting. It was so much fun; I can still feel it resonating down all these years.

There was an incident, I think I was about 8 or 9, Transformers were doing the rounds. I was big on story cassettes at this point, loved listening to them (I would eventually figure out a way to set up a mic and record my own when I ran out of tapes to listen to). Both my parents got me loads of tapes – I seriously could never get enough stories. I was up mega early one morning to listen to my new Transformer one, I’m talking around six a.m. Stuck the headphones into the hi-fi, popped the tape on. Couldn’t hear it very well. The sound was muffled. I turned up the volume, turned it up more. And more. And more. Until suddenly the headphones were snatched off my ears, and I could finally hear just how loud the theme tune was booming from the speakers. Dad wasn’t too impressed. Don’t think anyone in the house that day ever forgot the song – ‘More than meets the eyes….’

Then there was the typewriter! Oh, the typewriter. Bought for me during my A-levels. Electronic, with a little LCD screen, upon which you would type three lines of text before it would hammer out all the words in a blitz of insane drumming, the whole machine bouncing around on the table like it was bursting to get the story out. Yeah, I typed out my revision notes on it, but this is where I bashed out the first couple of, now lost (thankfully), short stories. What a time. The noise must have driven him loopy. Every minute and a half – badda badda badda badda badda badda bang!

The 386 PC followed a couple of years later, running Windows 3.1. Woo! The power! The only game it could run was minesweeper. Although I suppose it managed Solitaire but freaked out when you completed the game and it was meant to spew the cards all over the screen in celebration. Always crashed then. This machine saw the incredibly tentative birth of my first attempt at a novel. What a thing that was – a standard fantasy novel (sort of like Dragonlance) crossed with a zombie invasion, saved on 3.5-inch floppy disks. It’s all lost now… except these early stories are never truly lost, are they? They’re still in us, cheering the other stories on.

So much else too. The way he’d photocopy the instructions and backstories from all the Commodore 64 games and file them in big binders, it gave the stories to these games a magical feel, like they were special. The way he ripped all the plots of every 80’s action and horror flick to pieces, taught me to be damn careful about filling in them holes. But it’s the paper, mostly. And the pens. And that big mad typewriter.

These things help us along, don’t they? The gifts, the encouragements, the acceptance, the day-to-day living. Every small action has an effect. We should try to remember that as parents and try to recall it as daughters and sons.

I miss Dad. I miss Mum. I hope they see how hard I’ve chased my dream, and that they were a part of it.

I would love to hear how your own parents influenced your writing career in the comments below!

Steve Conoboy

A Graveyard Visible by Steve Conoboy

Funerals happen in the graveyard outside Caleb's window each evening, but no one is dying...

There's a graveyard visible from Caleb's bedroom window, and it grows a little bigger each day. He sees funerals there every evening, but nobody is dying. Misha, the strange girl who lives there with her grandfather, takes an unwanted interest in Caleb, and he can't shake her off. But he's sure those peculiar mourners, the same ones at each graveside every time, are forcing her into rituals against her will... Caleb, still reeling from the death of his mother, soon finds himself deep in a world of the dead in this chilling YA horror novel; will it be too late for him to climb back out?

Try A Graveyard Visible for yourself or buy your dear old dad a copy, just because! It's not too late to download the kindle copy if you've forgotten to get a Father's Day present!

With two kids, three cats, and a job in care, for Steve Conoboy writing fantasy fiction is a quiet respite from the madness of normality. A Graveyard Visible is Steve's second published YA novel, with his short story credits including Polluto magazine, Voluted Tales, and Kzine.


0 comments on this article

This thread has been closed from taking new comments.