As you can probably tell by the title, this blog deals with sensitive topics. Consider this a warning: what you’re about to read may be upsetting to some. Having said that, I’m won’t go into any real detail in regards to individuals or events, as I don’t believe it’s appropriate here.
So, where do I begin? My upbringing was rather unconventional, to say the least. I was home-schooled throughout primary and secondary (meaning that prior to starting college at 16, all of my education had been delivered at home). This had some incredible benefits, as it forced me to explore and develop my own ideas about the world around me from a very young age, which moulded me into a self-led, self-motivating individual. This of course had its pitfalls also, as I often found it difficult to relate to others, and to understand differing views and opinions. Rather paradoxically, it taught me to think and problem solve outside the box, but it also stifled my ability to approach issues head-on. Often, the answer to a question would be staring me in the face, but I was unable to see it.
As you can imagine, this meant that the year I was thrown into the world of formal education was… challenging, to say the least. Approaching his first day of college, 16 year old me was crippled by social anxiety, to the point where he could barely open his mouth to speak. Having never been socialised with other children to any meaningful degree, I had no idea how to communicate with my peers – and even if I had known, I doubt my anxiety would have let me. It wasn’t that there was no support available to me at the time, but I had never been conditioned to ask for help, nor to express my thoughts or feelings, so the only way I knew was to suffer in silence.
The other students viewed me as shy, quiet and a little strange. And I suppose I was all three, but not for the reasons anyone – and I’m including myself in this – comprehended. A few months into the course, I was bullied incessantly by two boys I had previously thought my friends, and mentally I reached a new low. I no longer saw a future for myself.
Now, the reason I’m telling this story relates directly to my writing. I had always been interested in creative writing from an early age – I penned my first short story around 11, and some time later I wrote a series of novels that were essentially Harry Potter rip-offs. The home-schooled me loved creative writing, but I think his main motivation was simply to pass the time. I don’t recall holding any genuine notion of becoming an author at the time, as I was always told it could never be anything more than a hobby.
It was only at 16, as the emotional black cloud was threatening to consume me, that I again picked up a pen and notebook and poured my angst and depression into creative work. I had always harboured a love for works of high fantasy – the Lord of the Rings movies were a big part of my teenage years, and I used to play the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop game, World of Warcraft MMO, and read any high fantasy novels I could get my hands on. And so I started to create a fantasy world of my own, wherein I could write my own stories. It became something of a spiritual journey for me, as I explored my thoughts and emotions within the context of this fictional world.
That fantasy world is the same that I set most of my stories in to this day. The Bloodkin race that feature in many of my works are an invention of that time, and I think a lot of their feature characteristics – zealous self-harm, hedonistic approach to life, emphasis on the temporary nature of existence – mirrors the mentality of my teenage years.
I will always be thankful to 16 year old me for deciding – rather than to harm himself or others – to pick up a ballpoint pen and a cheap and cheerful notebook and write, write, write. To pour his anger and sadness onto the page. 16 year old me was never writing with the aim of being published; he was doing it for himself, as a means to survive. I don’t believe I’m exaggerating when I say I owe my decision to start writing fiction for being here today.