Not only is Zoë a terrific writer, she is also a talented photographer, a (very) fast driver, a sailor, and a target shooter. So, with that, let's (respectfully) welcome Zoë Sharp.
–-Jeff (borrowing from Stan's introduction)
Getting From There to Here
Have you ever stopped and looked around you, and wondered how you got from there to here?
I’m not talking about those momentary lapses during familiar journeys when the autopilot takes over, and you suddenly realise you’ve missed your junction on the motorway. Nor am I indulging in some deep cosmic navel-gazing.
Instead, I’m asking the question on a more down-to-earth level—when you first became aware that there was this nebulous thing called ‘a career’ and that you were expected to have one, what did you imagine you would become?
Being a horse-mad child, I naturally wanted to emulate my show-jumping heroes—or in this case, heroines—and in particular Caroline Bradley, who really set light to the sport until her tragic death in 1983 at the age of only thirty-seven.
Sadly, being jumped up and down rather a lot on by very large horses with very big feet soon proved to me I don’t have the nerve for the really big fences, although being a riding instructor is still more or less my only professional qualification.
I was brought up on a boat, so naturally sailing featured strongly in my early life. I was fascinated by the achievements of transatlantic yachtswoman Clare Francis, devouring her non-fiction works about her voyages, not only several times across the Atlantic, but in the Round Britain Race, the Azores and Back Singlehanded Race, and the Whitbread Round The World Race. And then her highly successful career as a novelist.
Writing, as well as sailing, was one of the mainstays of my early life. Having opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve (I was a horribly precocious child), I eventually wrote my first full-length novel at fifteen. My father loyally typed it up for me, complete with carbon copies, (cue peals of laughter from anyone under thirty), and it did the rounds of the major publishers, receiving what are known in the trade as “rave rejections”. Looking back, most fledgling writers today would be incredibly heartened to get the kind of encouraging criticism I received, but at the time I was devastated. I assumed that particular door would remain forever closed to me and looked round for Something Else.
That Something Else included a variety of jobs, some of which I’m not really able to talk about, but suffice to say that during that time I picked up one or two useful skills, including the ability to hit a moving target with a large-calibre rifle at 300 metres with open sights. (No, really—don’t ask.)
Still the writing side of things never quite released its grip on me.
As soon as I learned to drive, cars became my passion. I bought an elderly Triumph Spitfire, rebuilt it, resprayed it, and drove it as much in the style of the great Group B World Rally competitor, Michèle Mouton as I was able, considering she had at least ten times the horsepower and four-wheel drive. I would have loved to follow in her footsteps, but elderly British convertibles with no ground clearance were not the most competitive vehicles in which to attempt serious off-roading.
|Change of course|
That passion for cars never faded, though, and almost by accident I fell into writing about classic cars, which combined two loves very nicely. I started doing a few reports for one of the local historic car club magazines. Before I knew it, I was freelancing for the mainstream press, winging it, and praying nobody asked me what qualifications I had for the job. Fortunately, it took one of my commissioning editors four years to do so. By then I was able to tell her, “Well, you’ve been paying me to do it for the past four years. Does that count as qualification enough?”
It did, apparently.
And I might have put aside my fiction ambitions indefinitely, had it not been for the death-threat letters I received in the course of my work, which had two immediate effects. The first of these was that I took a sudden and very keen interest in learning a great deal of self-defence
dirty tricks—erm, I
mean tactics, and the second was to try to make sense of the whole thing by
writing it out of my system.
The result was KILLER INSTINCT: Charlie Fox book one.
Now I look back on it, the whole of my life has been useful preparation for getting to this point. Every skill I’ve acquired—every bit of information I’ve picked up, or journey I’ve taken—has informed my writing in some way. No experience, however nasty it might be at the time, is ever wasted.
And I realise that although I may have come to it by a somewhat circuitous route, I am in the incredibly lucky position of having achieved my childhood ambition.
I am what I’ve always dreamed of being—an author.
What about you? Are you where you hoped you’d be when you first set out? And if you’re doing something completely unexpected (but which you enjoy anyway), how did you stumble onto that path?
And if you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, can you see a way to change course in the near future—a means of getting from here to there?