Having my novel Gape, published is the realisation of an almost life-long dream. Seriously, if I lost my hands in a bizarre gardening accident and was no longer able to type, I’d put my stumps up and say, ‘You know, it’s OK, because I had my book published!’
Obviously, I could dictate stories to an assistant or into a computer system – or even grasp a crayon between my elbows if it came down to it, but you get what I mean don’t you?
Being an avid and compulsive reader, it seems to make sense that I’d end up trying to write something myself. I started off with poetry, short stories and even a screenplay for the world’s worst horror film ever, but eventually I decided to go for something with a bit of substance.
In a perverse way, it helped that I was working at the world’s worst job; working in a call centre for a utilities company. It was fine while I was training, but after a month I realised I’d made a huge mistake. I had to take twenty calls an hour from irate customers while being told to sell them things that they didn’t want or need. Additionally, the management would stalk the floor between cubicles shouting ‘Phones!’ whenever the electronic call total on the wall rose above a certain level. Even lavatory breaks were timed and you were castigated if you took too long.
Some plants thrive in the worst environments. In one way my mental state was deteriorating, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop writing and I was flowering under the worst possible circumstances.
I’m not saying that I was making great art or anything, but I found my release. The small needle on the meter in my brain box was dancing over in the red full time and I was even diagnosed with clinical depression. The writing didn’t stop though. The people around me became demons and the worst kind of monsters – the cast for my nascent stories. I must have started seven or eight narratives that never really amounted to anything. I’d get these really great, ideas, or so I thought, but I’d never have the stamina to see them through to the end.
Fast-forward a few years and I was in a better place (physically and mentally), and I got bitten by the writing bug again. I picked up a fragment of a manuscript printed on what must have been the old dot-matrix printer I had with my Commodore Amiga. It had no title, but had ‘Copyright 2001 – Astolath’ in large capitals on the front page.
The technology had moved on so I started to transcribe it into MS Word. In doing so, I read it as if it had been written by someone else and it actually seemed pretty good after a bit of time and distance. I added to the story and got as far as finishing about eighty or so pages. And then it went back in to a drawer to yellow and to gather dust.
A period of redundancy a year and a half ago meant that I had time on my hands. This time I was determined to actually finish something. I started to write what I thought was a good idea for a novel. It was a semi-autobiographical piece on growing up as a geek and relying on science fiction to get me through the hard times in my life. This time I reached two hundred pages before the doubt crept in, whispering I was writing something that no one would want to read.
While looking for copywriting jobs online, I stumbled across a call for submissions from an independent US publisher. I dusted off my 2001 piece, now re-titled Gape, as this is what I had done when I first re-read the piece (I worked the theme into the story later on of course).
With a shaking digit, I hit ‘send’ in the hope of just soliciting an opinion as to whether my work had any redeeming features. In the end, I was lucky to have Gape picked up by Sirens Call Publications.
It was validation I hadn’t been wasting all my time. And ironically, it would be my inner demons that would redeem me through their presence in my novel. Every one of whom I have known personally, either in their human form or in their more hellish incarnation.
Gape by Aiden Truss
When Rose woke up in her favourite shop doorway, she was resigned to yet another day of hunger, struggle and abuse. This was life on the streets after all.
What she wasn’t prepared for, was a visit from a demon, an invitation back to his temporally insubstantial sanctuary, and forced to take sides in a battle involving most of the denizens of hell. Oh, and a boat trip down the river Thames.
After a disappointing start to the day, things were about to get a bit more interesting…
Aiden Truss is a forty one year-old geek who still thinks that he’s twenty-one. Despite never having grown up, he’s now been married for twenty four years and has two sons who have grown up against all odds to be strangely well adjusted.
Aiden spends his time flitting between high and low culture: he holds an MA in Cultural and Critical Studies and can often be seen stalking the galleries and museums of London, but also likes watching WWE, listening to heavy metal music, collecting comic books and playing classic video games.
Aiden lives in Kent, England and Gape is his first novel.