The Legend Of David Gemmell


A great many writers of historical fiction, fantasy and heroic fiction have been inspired by David Gemmell’s evocative writing and muscular plotting.  From the publication of his first novel in 1984, he established a position in bestseller lists across the globe and was prolific in his output.

But sometimes it’s very easy to see the work and not the person behind it.  What many people don’t realise is how supportive David Gemmell was of many young writers trying to gain a foothold in a notoriously brutal industry.  He was tireless in his responses to queries from would-be authors, taking the time to craft personal advice and guidance that would help them on their own personal journey.  My friend James Barclay was only one such writer who went on to great things after David offered his initial support.

David didn’t wade through reams of pages of unpublished manuscripts.  No writer has the time for that.  And in this day and age it’s hugely frowned upon.  Many agents insist that their clients don’t read the work of unpublished authors because of the possibility of litigation – not because any author would willingly steal the work of someone else – they have enough ideas of their own that they’ll never have the time to write.  But because the way this bizarre, creative business works is that things seep into the vast unconscious, stew, change and eventually bubble to the surface again with no hint of where they came from.

But David was always quick to respond to anyone who contacted him, with a friendly word, or advice on who and how to approach.

Sometimes that’s all you need.  Just a word, a nod of the head, a sense that, yes, keep going, we’ve all been there, you can do it.

And on a separate note, and just to update everyone who’s been in touch, I’ve now completed the copy edit of Hereward: The Bloody Crown.  It’s on schedule and will be published in July as planned.  Here are the details on Amazon.

Hereward 6

The Year Of Writing Dangerously

I don’t understand writers who give up the day-job, then find an office somewhere and spend all day staring at the screen in the same sort of cubicle they may well have occupied when they were wage-slaves.

Why would you do that, when suddenly you can be anywhere?  Giving up the day-job = Freedom!  Being a writer = Freedom!  You no longer have to be tied to an industrial size typewriter.  With the technology available today, you can commune with your muse on feather-light Macbook Air (well, a few feathers…), or iPad or Galaxy tablet, or smartphone.  The tools of the trade have never been so portable, freeing up the writer to follow their craft wherever the mood takes them.

Partly, I think, it’s that a lot of writers are stuck in twentieth-century thinking.  It’s a job – it puts food on the table, it takes a massive amount of effort and concentration – so it has to be treated like a job.  Hard labour in a rabbit-hutch office.  Just so your unconscious, and your loved ones, and friends, don’t think you’re slacking (because secretly you think you are…)

Writing is a job, but it’s not that kind of job.  It’s not digging ditches or making grommets on an industrial estate in Droitwich.  There’s no correlation between the quality of the work and how hard you make the task, or even how much time you spend on the piece.

The correlation is between quality and how quickly, and deeply, and for how long you can immerse yourself in that state of flow – that’s where the brilliance of a piece of writing truly materialises. And you find that immersion when you’re stimulated, not when your surroundings or routine have stultified your brain into jelly.

I write in the garden, in the pub, the cafe, on aeroplanes and trains, on moorland, parks, in a castle, at a zoo, even, once, at the top of the Empire State Building…

I can see the results.  When I’m bored, the writing suffers.  When I’m stimulated by the surroundings, I write better, faster, produce more.

So here’s the thing: for the next year I’m going to document, photographically, some of the places I write – and I’m actively going to seek out unusual locations.  I’ll publish the results here or on the James Wilde Facebook page.  There will be links on Twitter too.  And I’ll use the hashtag #YOWD (Year of Writing Dangerously) so you can search and follow the trail.

And I’d like to throw this open to any other writers – published or soon-to-be published, or not-really-caring-about-being published.  If you’ve got a smartphone, there’s an app – frontback – which is perfectly suited to taking a photo of your location and you in it.  Use the hashtag and let us all see where you’ve created great things, then tell us if it works for you.

Throw off your shackles and be free!