Bit of an exciting time at the moment because after what seems like an eternity, production is wrapping up on my latest book, so every couple of days I open up my email IN box and find something new and/or gorgeous from my publisher, as loose ends are tied up, t’s dotted and i’s crossed - ah no, hang on, that’s wrong; we’ll have to go back and change that...

I’ve been an (clutches lapels proudly) ‘astronomy author’ for (cough!) years now and this will be book number ten I think, I’ll have to check. Some of those books were relatively easy and quick to write because they were, to be honest, very thin and didn’t have a very high word count. Others, thicker and with rather more generously-spread word fillings, took longer and were a bit more of a struggle. Every book is different. This one has been... well, if you imagine me typing ‘interesting’ and sighing and raising a Spock-like eyebrow at the same time you’ll get the idea.

Almost every other book I’ve written has been like running a marathon - a slow start after lots of preparation, then a steady progression to the finish line, for a well-deserved cuppa and a sit down. This one? Ah, this one, for various reasons, has been like trying to tackle an assault course and I only dragged myself over the finishing line after hauling myself up palm-burning ropes, trudging and slopping my way through numerous troughs filled with mud and almost losing my grip on a

dozen different sets of monkey bars. The struggle was worth it because the finished product is beautiful, but boy...

Writing can be fun, it really can - when it’s going well, when you’re inspired and ‘in the zone’ as they say. At the moment, I’m just finishing the first draft of my first novel (well, my first one good enough to be worth sending off anywhere!) and I’ve loved writing it. Many times, I’ve sat down and seven hours later found I’ve written ten pages - not just pages but good pages. I love my characters. I love the way minor characters, just intended to say a few lines or fill in a space, suddenly push their way to the front, elbowing the main characters out of the way and become major characters themselves.

Writing isn’t always like that. Thanks to countless television and film portrayals, people think that writers are romantic characters, that we sit by windows in our snow white New Romantic shirts, quill in hand, staring at the sky, waiting for inspiration to strike us. Hah! I wish! Writing is usually more frustrating than trying to get a straight answer out of a politician and more often than not, I want to throw my laptop out of an open window. No! Writing is a job, or at least you must treat it like one, or you’re just messing about on a computer.

On television and in films, ‘writing’ is a joyfully creative process. The writer sits at their

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uncluttered, clean desk, tapping away at their computer, stopping occasionally to glance at the ceiling, or out of the window, smiling as inspiration comes to them like a fairy landing on their shoulder and whispering something beautiful in their ear. They take their manuscript to their editor in person, who reads it in front of them in silence, then looks up after the last page and says to them, in tears: “That’s beautiful... it’s your best yet!” In the real world, writing is the creative equivalent of root canal surgery. It’s ridiculously late nights and stupidly early mornings. It is looking for obscure reference material on Google for hours without success. It is like voluntarily pulling your own fingernails out then sprinkling salt on them.

At the end of the process, sometimes, just sometimes, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, something amazing emerges from all the frustration and pain and ends up sitting proudly on a shelf, in a bookshop and makes it all worthwhile.

That’ll be me again in July... or September... or October, I’m not sure. No-one can tell me..! See what I mean? Salt...

Oh well, back to the novel I guess... Stuart Atkinson

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