My good friend often said that no one can write a decent book before the age of forty. Life experience, he believes, is required to write well.
I sold my book at the age of 37, three years under my friend’s presumed guideline. Sometimes I think I wrote it out of spite, just to prove the guy wrong.
Spite, I’ve always found, is the best reason to do anything.
I also become annoyed with myself from time to time for waiting so long to write my first novel, assuming that I could’ve done so ten or even fifteen years earlier.
But perhaps my friend is right. Though I have yet to reach the grand old age of forty, I certainly have a great deal of life experience behind me, and maybe this was in fact needed in order for me to be successful.
Guardian columnist John Crace would seem to agree, arguing that novelist and short story writer Jim Ballard’s life experiences before picking up the pen provided him with “a psychological and experiential depth” to his work.
Perhaps the broken home, the betrayal of my step-father, the near-death experiences, the near homelessness, the year I spent living with Jehovah Witnesses and a goat, the armed robbery, the arrest and subsequent trial for a crime I did not commit, and the public attack on my reputation and career have provided me with enough life experience to write successfully.
Perhaps it was good for something after all.