In February, I began the long journey to becoming a horror writer. At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to achieve my life-long dream. Humble beginnings, it seems, don’t prepare you for the reality of being an author in this competitive world. I started with an idea and a notepad…
Six months later, hindsight is a great ally. I look back on the early months of my career, when I was a fresh new writer looking to make his mark, and I gasp and cringe at some of the things I did. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months…enough to keep me sane and level headed yet confirm I made a few mistakes – hell, we all make them – in the bright lights of obscurity. Did I make mistakes? Yes, of course I did, but as the mantra goes, we all make mistakes. It’s how we develop as people and, in this instance, as writers. It’s learning from those mistakes that makes you better at your chosen profession – if you choose to follow it, like I did – and I’m afraid to admit, but some writers don’t take this on board. Some will scrap fans and reputation for quick reviews and cheap, spammy promotion. I wanted no part of this and once it reared it’s ugly head, I was done with it. I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who have guided me and I can honestly admit, I’m a more experienced writer for it.
I wanted success. Fast. However, this was short lived. Early on, with the guidance of fantastic authors like Matt Shaw, Kyle M. Scott, Jim Goforth, Jack Rollins and many more, I soon learned that writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, build a fan-base, do the work, be prolific. Let the reviews build themselves. I mistakenly approached people for review swaps, after all, we all benefited. It seemed like a good idea at the time. However, I soon learned this was a no-no, a cheap way to garner credibility and after three or four reviews, I ceased doing this. Do I regret it? Yes, I do. However, during this process I met some hard working authors and discovered to choose my sources of useful information more wisely. I also met writers who would do anything to get noticed and I didn’t want any part in this. I haven’t swapped a review since (in May), but it shows just how far some authors will go to further themselves at the behest of their reputation. I care about my reputation – the reason I stopped and removed my name from all such activity on Goodreads – and would rather build a fan-base based on loyalty, honesty, hard work and…well, decent writing.
Since May, this has been the case. I’ve been accepted into several horror anthologies – and asked to contribute, a proud moment – , been nominated for a CWA Dagger in the Library Award for 2014, had several interviews, a radio interview and have garnered my very first publisher for my debut novel. Had you said this would happen back in February, I would have laughed in your face…or at least slapped you. However, looking back, I didn’t put many feet wrong. I took baby steps and stumbled, and if this offended anyone, I apologise. Apart from the aforementioned review swaps, my career has been earned through hard work, promotion in the right way, adverts, word of mouth and, one thing all authors crave, good feedback from many a reader. If you need proof, I have a long list of people who can testify to this. Do I stay up until 4am each night? Yep. I live on 5 hours sleep a day because this is damn important to me. I’ve made my mistakes and learned from them. Everyone deserves a second chance…
Am I still finding my way? Yes, of course, I will be for some time. The difference now is simple: I have friends and colleagues in useful, helpful places. I didn’t in February and because of that, I was foolish. I wouldn’t do it again and I’ve even warned authors away from copying my mistakes. It seems the easy way to do it (it is), but sometimes, reward comes from striving, working your arse off and doing what you think it right, even if this is a longer, drawn out process. For me, that’s producing books and work that entertain people, give them escape from their lives and, most importantly for me, helps them remember that the most vital thing is a reader who doesn’t forget you. I’m a reader first and an author second…sometimes. Remember, I still love books, it’s the reason I became an author, and I will always put the reader first. This is my dream. I don’t intend to half arse this…this is very important to me.
So, in closing, I apologise if I offended you, did something wrong, crossed a line, killed an angel, anything that is unseemly. I’ve learned from these errors and with my peers around me, I aim to continue on this honest path. After all, my writing is becoming known for being fresh, concise, suspenseful and – to quote the reviewers – Hitchcockian, King-like and Laymon-esque. What higher praise do I need? You haven’t let me down and I certainly intend to return the favour.
Thanks for reading.
Stuart Keane – Reader and Author…which basically go hand in hand.