One of the things I have enjoyed most since setting up the blog is chatting to and getting to know more about authors. Last year I hosted a Q&A with Canadian author Bill Arnott which you can read here and today's it's my pleasure to welcome Bill back to the blog.
… around the time I signed my first book. The purchaser, someone I’d known for years, looked at me with excitement I’d never seen on them prior to the publication of my modest trade paperback – a book on personal development, what we labeled self-help in the day. It became a national bestseller. Fifteen years later people still buy copies and seem to enjoy them. Authors I admire say kind things about it. A number who gave glowing reviews actually read the book. From the proceeds I sent cheques to Make-a-Wish Foundation of Canada, granting wishes to children with life threatening illness. The whole experience was quite remarkable.
Reading the work now, however, makes me cringe. I’ve improved my craft since then. But the book still makes me proud. Writing it, I began to find my voice, albeit lathered in vanilla, tiptoeing a path I felt would offend no one. Remarkably I still managed to insult a few idiots. THAT was when I knew I was a writer. Not during signings, donation photos or doe-eyed looks. Don’t get me wrong, that was enjoyable, but it didn’t convince me of my capabilities as a writer. It was when I realized I’d written something that shared a perspective to engage, reaching readers in a way that made them FEEL – whatever those emotions were – joy, sadness, or in some cases, deciding I wasn’t opinionated, but wrong. After my initial confusion (how can you find THAT offensive?!) I had my first sense of authenticity as a writer, giving me the courage to scrape away the frosting, my subsequent book being forthright and opinionated. Fewer people read it. I’m more proud of it.
I won’t fault someone writing for a broad audience. We all have different goals. If you do so in your own voice, are proud of your work and stimulate readers, I applaud you. And if you write something for no one but yourself and feel good about it, I applaud you too. If you’ve triggered emotion, you already know you’re the real deal. Learning HOW to write is easy. There are plenty of instruction manuals gathering dust on bookshelves. Determining WHY you write sets you apart, providing focus and objective. Yes, you’ll work hard, challenge yourself and tackle obstacles. But you’ll never question your life as a writer.
Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of WIBA and ABF Book Awards Finalist, Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, the suspense-thriller series The Gamble Novellas, and the poetry collection Forever Cast in Endless Time. He’s been awarded for prose, poetry, songwriting, is the producer of Bill's Artist Showcase, and for his Gone Viking expedition has been granted a Fellowship at London's Royal Geographical Society. When not trekking the globe with a small pack, journal and laughably outdated camera phone, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making friends and misbehaving.