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Wednesday 11 July 2018

HOW IT ALL BEGAN - a guest post by Tom Halford

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming a brand new guest, all the way from Canada.  Meet the fabulous Tom Halford, who will be one of my guests at the online launch of Heathcliff on 30 July.  Tom's debut novel, Deli Meat, will be released on 17 September 2018, but is already available for pre-order by clicking here.

Welcome, Tom!

There’s a man stranded on a desert island. He has a sheet of plastic, a ball of twine, and a hatchet.

How will he get off the island?

This scenario is probably the reason that I first took an interest in writing.

Way back when people were beginning to buy personal computers (back when we still needed to include “personal” before “computer”), my mom and dad bought one of those boxy, plastic contraptions, the ones where people were impressed to see words appear on a screen. I say words because I don’t think our first computer had enough memory for images. We didn’t care, though. It was amazing enough to be able to type and see the white, pixelated letters appear on the flickering blue screen.

One day, Pete, my oldest brother, was sitting in front of the personal computer, and I asked him what he was doing. He said he was writing a story about a man who was on a deserted island. The man had a sheet of plastic, a ball of twine, and a hatchet, and the story was going to be about how the man would use these items to get back to civilization.

I don’t know how old we were. We were pretty young, but I can still remember how I felt. I was fascinated. There was something about how Pete had created this imaginary world, how he had developed a problem, and most importantly, how he was working on a solution.

I was obsessed with the idea of writing my own story.

One of the first things I wrote on that computer was a crime story. It was about my Grandmother Fletcher and a serial killer in the small town of Harvey Station, New Brunswick. The twist was that the serial killer was actually a cereal killer. I mean this literally. The murderer was a giant cheerio.

I can’t remember fully what happened in the story, but my Grandmother defeated the cereal killer by some kind of karate chop or flying kick.

Writing was always a lot of fun, and I was consistently rewarded for being creative by my parents. I am still writing crime-fiction. My novel Deli Meat also features a serial killer and it does have a comedic bent, but it’s a little more serious than my first story that I wrote for my Grandmother. To tell the truth, I don’t know what my Grandmother would think if she read Deli Meat. It’s a violent dark comedy with all kinds of swearing.

The hero of Deli Meat, a woman named Effie Pitts, travels to Plattsburgh, New York in search of her husband who has gone missing on a bachelor party. She meets a cooky waiter, Conrad Arms, who tries to help people, but invariably ends up doing more harm than good. This is my first novel, and I’ve been working on it obsessively. I really hope the effort shines through.

My wife and I have two small children, and the only opportunities that I have to write are usually when everyone else is asleep. I get up at six every morning, and that usually gives me an hour before the kids wake up. Then when they go for their naps, I can usually write for another hour.

Sometimes at night, my wife and I sit around the kitchen table, and we both do a bit of work. The truth is that it’s very hard to find time to read and write. But, since those days sitting in front of that flickering blue screen, I’ve been a believer in the power of words. I keep my nose down and continue to work whenever I can.

Sometimes when I’m writing, I feel like that man on the island. I have a few tools, and I know how to use them, but there’s an ocean between where I am and where I want to be. That’s a problem, and no matter how hard it is to find time, there’s part of me that needs to figure out the solution.