Writing stories has always been my default state. Instead of revising for my GCSEs, I spent study leave writing a terrible play about a girl who turned into a seal (fairy tale or body horror?). Being the first in my family to go to university and lacking sensible guidance, I decided to study what I was interested in rather than anything practical. So I graduated with a degree in English Literature and Psychology (electives in History – I like learning) with no idea what to do with it.
Needing to earn a living, I took a sequence of jobs in retail, ad sales and data management, but got bored. I decided to retrain as a TEFL teacher, naively thinking I’d have both more time and money and could therefore dedicate more time to writing, and maybe even travel. Warning: teaching does not bring you more time and money. But I turned out to be good at it and I started teaching English and Psychology.
Freshly addicted to learning, and trying to work out this screenwriting thing, I trained in script reading at The Script Factory where I learned more about storytelling and applied it to my own work. I set up my own website and did some freelance script reading for a while. I saw a job ad on a freelancer newsletter looking for ‘picture story’ writers. I applied on Sunday and got a trial on Monday. This led to five years working as a comic script writer for DC Thomson’s Wendy magazine. I pitched and wrote over a hundred scripts about a girl and her horse.
Meanwhile, I kept trying to ‘break in’ to screenwriting. I reached out to my peers, entered competitions and applied for opportunities. I was a finalist at the Stratford-upon-Avon Fringe in 2012, where my play, The Confetti Job, was performed at the Attic Theatre and I won a cute little trophy. I had several projects that died, including the best short screenplay I ever wrote – mostly filmed, but never finished – and an audio play (my first paid commission) that was never released.
Eventually, I was commissioned to write my first super low budget horror feature – Siren Song. It was an exciting collaboration and looked like it was going ahead. But then the original producers had a ‘producer divorce’ and the whole thing was off. And then – plot twist – new producers came on board with more money and even more ideas. I couldn’t collaborate anymore because I was heading into hospital for some super serious surgery, so I wished them well and said goodbye. On the first day of production, I was going under anaesthetic.
After hospital, I didn’t feel like watching or writing anything horror or even doing social media for a long while. I even went back to university to do a post grad in technical communication. However, a recommendation led to another horror feature commission. I threw myself into it and got back into the regular writing headspace by reading loads of new screenwriting and horror books, and re-watching lots of horror classics. To my relief, I rediscovered my love of horror. I’m now working on several projects and feeling hopeful about the future. I still teach, though (day jobs are cool).