Vampires, Disneyland and childhood dreams

Resurrecting a long-buried ambition back from the dead is a wonderful thing.

Especially when you’re not sure how it got buried in the first place.

I didn't want to be a writer when I grew up

A lot of writers say they always knew they wanted to be a writer from a very early age.

My childhood ambitions were more on the predictable side. 

A ballerina when I was really little, then later a veterinarian. 

I was never going to be either of those things because 

a) I never learned ballet and 

b) I failed year 10 science.

And even though I loved reading and writing and did well in English, it didn’t occur to me to think about a writing career when I left high school. Instead I studied art at college. 

Image of painting
I don't mind this painting I did when I was 17, based on Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avigngon, but I was never going to make it as a visual artist.

Writing as a potential career wasn’t on my radar until my mid-30s, even though my first novel dates back to when I was 9 years old.

I present to you the unfinished “masterpiece”: Strike up a friendship with a vampire?

Image of old book cover
Spent a bit of time on this cover page, obviously!

One weird kid and two friendly vampires

My memory of how this book came about is that the teacher set the class an assignment to write a novel. 

Being a bit of a word nerd I got to work, came up with my idea and began writing and illustrating.

That's a quite reasonable self-portrait (on the left) I think!

As a kid I was both fascinated and terrified by vampires, and I think writing about them was my way of making them into friendly creatures.

Around that time I’d seen some pretty terrifying vampire films at the movies. 

I have no idea how I got into the cinema to see them. I was way too young to be watching films that left me sleeping with the blankets tucked up tight against my chin every night to protect my neck.

(Because obviously vampires can’t bite through blankets.)

image of writing in old exercise book
Trying to master the page-turning cliff hanger...

A bottom-drawer destiny

I never finished the novel. I like to think it’s because I wanted the story to be authentic and so needed to visit Disneyland for “research purposes”.* 

Anyway, the teacher lost interest in the project or forgot that she’d ever set the assignment and my first “novel” was tucked away in a drawer. But I never forgot that thrill of writing a story.

Writing bug bites back

Strike up a friendship has always been special to me.

I’ve kept it through at least 10 house moves across three cities, I think because it reminds me about who I was as a kid.

I don’t have a lot of strong childhood memories. But I have this old exercise book with its funny little unfinished story and not-so-great drawings.

The writing bug bit me way back then and although it was buried for many years eventually it claimed its stake in my heart (thereby proving once and for all I was not a vampire).

Rise up, dead ambition, and fly!

I was in my early 40s by the time I finished a full-length novel manuscript. Which just goes to show no matter how deep you bury some ambitions, like a hungry vampire, one day they’ll rise from the dead again. 

You’re never too old, and it’s never too late.

*I’ve never visited Disneyland but I did take my own kids to Disneyworld in Florida when they were around 9 and 11 years old. It was awesome.

5 thoughts on “Vampires, Disneyland and childhood dreams”

  1. Thank you for your encouragement! As a mature-age writer I feel I’ve left my run a bit late but my desire to write will never fade. I’m learning to disregard literary ideals and write what I want, when I want. But perhaps not about vampires!

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