A few days ago my cousin, the brilliant comedienne Laura Lexx, wrote this amazing blog post: http://lauralexx.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/in-plastic-cup.html
It’s crossed my mind several times since I first read it and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve read it a couple of times since. She’s absolutely spot on, both in her speculations about why people get offended and also in questioning why it is that we wait until people are gone to recognise the roles they play in our lives.
It made me think about the people that have inspired me. They’ll never read this blog and chances are that I’ll never meet them, but it’s kind of a falling tree in the forest thing. It still makes a sound. Of course it does. The laws of physics say so. I really like the idea of showcasing certain people and explaining why they’ve inspired me, so I’m getting on this wagon, ladies and gentlemen. Every now and then I’m going to try and post about someone that has had a profound effect on my life, someone that’s still alive.
Really there’s no other place to start than Our Lady Rowling. J K Rowling…there are so many things I admire and respect about her that I’m not sure I can even encapsulate it in one blog post.
My journey with her began when I was a spotty, greasy little teenager. Those were dark years for me. I struggled at boarding school. I didn’t fit in with the other girls, I was bullied and I was also like a high school movie nerd cliche. When I discovered Harry Potter it was a kind of escapism that was more absorbing than anything else I’d ever experienced. I’d already been writing for a couple of years by then (I penned my first novel (I use the term ‘novel’ EXTREMELY loosely) when I was 12 years old) and Harry Potter opened my eyes to a whole new world. I grew up reading mostly epic fantasy, science fiction and historical romance because that’s what was in the house. It shaped what I thought I enjoyed and what I wrote. Harry Potter with it’s hefty dose of magical realism was new and bright and like nothing I’d ever read before. I don’t care what anyone says about Rowling’s writing style – to me it was perfect and absorbing and it rocked my world.
I couldn’t devour the books fast enough. I was that teenager that waited by the post box for nearly 2 hours for the postman to come with my book on release day and at that time our postbox was nearly a mile’s walk away. Through a ford. Talk about commitment!
When the films came out, I fell in love all over again. Yeah, the acting was a little wooden and the early films were a bit rubbish, but that’s not the point. The point was that the words and images graven in my heart were up there on the screen in front of me, making it seem just that little bit more real. I can’t lie. I wanted to be in Harry Potter’s world. I wanted to go to Hogwarts. I wanted a wand and a broom and owl. It made real life seem so…ordinary and pedestrian.
As I got older and set out on my own writing career, Rowling again kept me on course. The number varies according to urban legend, but I’ve heard estimates that Rowling received up to 50 rejections in her bid to publish the first Harry Potter book. She was a single mum living on a minimum wage and refused to give up in the face of overwhelming failure. I admire and respect that SO much. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know that each and every rejection stings like hell. It’s no easy thing to keep persisting but, thanks to her forging the way ahead of me, I always remind myself that it’s okay – even Our Lady Rowling got rejected and look at her now. She’s my gold standard benchmark for persistence.
She’s also a role model to me in many other aspects of my writing career. If you know anything about my books, you’ll know that I write across a lot of genres. It might surprise you to know that I get a lot of emails asking for this book or asking for that book or comparing one of my books to another and telling me it’s not as good. It’s not that it’s not as good, it’s that it’s different. You can’t compare a contemporary romance with a paranormal thriller. When Rowling published The Casual Vacancy, she got a lot of negative reviews and criticism for it. It wasn’t a bad book at all. It was just different. All the Harry Potter fans rushed out to buy it expecting more of the same and were confused and disappointed when they didn’t get it, retaliating unnecessarily.
Rather than bow to the pressure of writing more magical realism, she did a complete 90 degree turn and published in secret under another name, Robert Galbraith. The Cuckoos Calling received phenomenal reviews, silencing all her critics when it was finally revealed that Galbraith and Rowling were one and the same. I admire that massively. She’d proved herself once in an incredibly competitive field and rather than resting on her laurels, she set out to do it again, starting from the bottom. It doesn’t matter if the publisher knew who she was – to the rest of the world, Robert Galbraith was someone they’d never heard of. It’s an uphill struggle without a solid name to fall back on, but she did it. It reminds me to stay true to myself, to write the things that I feel strongly about. Just because people might not get on board straight away, at some point the writing is going to start speaking for itself.
Her lifestyle is inspiring to me too. Unlike most of the big name authors, you rarely see her out and about, advertising this, that or the next thing. She’s almost a recluse and I admire her dignity in that. It’s not just that, as an introvert, I hope I’ll be able to avoid the fame that comes with fortune if I’m ever a NYT bestseller. The fact that she so rarely speaks publicly means that when she does, her words mean that much more and she speaks with careful consideration and a great deal of smarts. She’s a clever lady.
It’s extraordinary that she gives so much to charity too. I know that she’s rich and a million here and a million there is probably small change to her, but the point is that she doesn’t have to give it away. She wouldn’t have to feel any guilt if she kept it. It’s her hard-earned money. And writing is hard work people. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. She doesn’t though – she gives vast fortunes away to various charities and I think that’s amazing. She’s the first person to lose their billionaire status by giving money away. I say good for her.
I’m going to end my tribute to J K Rowling here but I urge you to think about the people that have inspired you and to write about it. Tell people who inspires you and why. Let’s not wait until people are dead to recognise what they mean to us.