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In the Spotlight - Hayden Gribble
Author of the Captain Random series and more...
In this issue of The Imaginists, we speak with UK based author Hayden Gribble. From writing a series of science fiction novels to an autobiographical book, Hayden shares some insights about his writing journey so far...
Welcome, Hayden. When did your writing journey begin and who/what inspired you to write books?
So long ago now! I have written for as long as I can remember. I was always coming up with little ideas and jotting them down, mainly influenced by things I was reading or watching at the time. A couple of years ago I found a detailed, illustrated crossover featuring Humpty Dumpty and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Surely there's a film in that nowadays? More prominently my teacher in Year 1, Mrs. Bell, saw me writing my own versions of Roderick Hunt's Magic Key books and encouraged me to read them to the class. One day I read one out to the whole school in assembly. I could have only been five or six!
So far you've written and published a thriller, a horror novella, a science fiction series and an autobiographical book all within a decade. That's quite an achievement! Can you share your typical writing process and how you stay motivated?
Thank you, Carol. I must say that it's evolved over time. When I started out writing novels, in 2012, my method was to sit on my bed, put some Black Keys or Love on my CD player and type away. By the time I was writing Child Out of Time and the first Captain Random book I had my own flat and I tended to work at the weekend in 2-3 hour blocks around a hectic and much missed social life.
By the time Covid hit, I suddenly had a couple of hours free a day that had been occupied by the commute for my day job, so I used this gift of free time to write and it really sped up the process. First drafts that have taken a year to write now took months and the fourth Captain Random novel, the Stratos Conundrum, was finished in four months!
I now have a young son, so I tend to concentrate on evenings when he is asleep and my wife is either watching whatever repulsive and vulgar vehicle Ant and Dec are peddling. In an odd way, I don't think I'd have written half my books if those two plebs weren't always on the box!
What's the most challenging aspect of being a writer?
To keep up momentum without burning yourself out. I write frequently but when a project is done I tend to park it for months before writing again. It's a difficult balancing act to keep going but not wear myself out but I think I manage.
I also think it's hard to get across to people who don't know the ins and outs of the business that releasing a book doesn't necessarily mean I'll be quitting my job and instantly be raking the money in. It's not about that for me. I once had someone ask me if I didn't get much money for writing then why do I do it. I pitied them. Imagine being so driven by money that it's the only motivator. No one's going to remember you for earning a wage. They bloody well will if you create something that resonates and endures. Equally, if this is your train of thought, don't become a writer. Your soul doesn't belong in our kitchen.
Fighting the prejudice of people who think you're not a proper writer if you don't have an agent or publisher too. I once had an old school acquaintance approach me for advice as she wanted to write a book but then proceeded to tell me she didn't want to write one like mine but a "proper" book. Suffice it to say, the advice never made it back to her after that...
How do you stay creatively focused in a world full of distractions?
I go analogue. I don't always but sometimes I listen to music and have an eclectic range of LPs I can listen to on the record player. If not, the phone goes on silent, stays in my pocket or in another room altogether and I get lost in the story in my head. I get quite tunnel-visioned and almost stubborn when it comes to hitting a goal so if I think to myself one morning I'm writing 1,000 words that day, you can bet that by hook or by crook I'm doing it.
As a writer, what has been your proudest moment/achievement so far?
That's a hard one. Holding my first book, The Man in the Corner, in my hands. Seeing Child Out of Time in Waterstones and that month's Doctor Who Magazine was also pretty sweet. If I were vain, which I tragically am, I'd also say walking down the stairs and seeing the artwork of all of my nine books so far adorning the wall, I'd say that makes me feel pretty proud but as I sit here right now it's probably finishing the first draft of the sixth and final Captain Random book.
Back in 2018 I met up with writer and friend Una McCormack and presented her with a copy of the first in the series. She remarked that I'd better finish the whole lot since I'd stated it was the first of many on the blurb. And now that's been done, knowing it's still 18 months away from publication but finished, I'm immensely proud of that achievement.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Wisely and unwisely. I love spending time with my son and my wife. I also walk religiously and run somewhat reluctantly. I listen to lots of music, play guitar, hang out with friends and play games on the xBox if there is any time left in the day. I also am a co-host on Diddly Dum: A Doctor Who podcast.
If you were to become the next Doctor Who, what's the first thing you'd do with your time-travelling skills?
Probably rescue all the episodes the BBC destroyed in the seventies (there are 97 William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton episodes that were junked) by buying a storage bunker, smuggling them all in there, and then unveiling them in the present day and basking in all my nerdy glory.
I'd also go back and watch Live Aid and Jimi Hendrix and The Who play Woodstock.
On a sentimental note, I'd go back and see my Dad again one more time and show him photos of my son.
Can you share any nuggets of wisdom for anyone who'd like to start writing?
A writer writes. You are not a writer if you only have an idea but haven't started un-blanking that page. It doesn't matter how long it takes, just get it done. You can't say that you are an astronaut if you haven't been into space. So go exploring and don't listen to any doubts inside your mind. You can do it. Prove it to yourself.
What are you working on right now?
On top of finishing the final Captain Random book, I'm preparing its predecessor, a collection of fifteen short stories called, Journeys in the Randomverse, and also an in-depth look at the BBC show Dad's Army, which has been a book ten years in the making, for publication this year and next. Beyond that, I hope to release a children's book that I have co-written with my wife called, The Unluckiest Boy In The Entire World, and two omnibus volumes of my Captain Random books in the coming years. I also have a Doctor Who related story out later in the year that I can't say much about but I am immensely proud to have been asked to write in the show's 60th year. So enough to keep me looking busy for a while!
And finally, Hayden, what has writing done for you?
So much. It's taught me a focus, drive and determination I never knew I had in me. It's also introduced me to so many amazing people. I've worked with a varied and amazing array of artists, proofreaders, editors and cover designers.
It's made me a happier, more fulfilled person too. Writing has helped me to explore and expand my horizons. I spent my childhood writing little stories. I spent my teens writing lyrics and poems for my bedroom bands and solo projects that were destined to never conquer the world. I have spent adulthood writing books that people have enjoyed. Even if one person had picked up a book of mine and liked it, that would have done.
It's made me smile. Lots.
Thank you for sharing these insights, Hayden. Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
You can follow me on Twitter @hayden_gribble and visit my website www.haydengribbleauthor.com where you can find links to my books. Alternatively, there's Amazon and all the usual bookstore websites, you can find me pretty much everywhere!