I know I seem to have a new idea every minute and to change gears just about that often, so it’s kind of funny to see that some obsessions stay with me a very long time. The roots of my Chastity Flame novels are deep. The first novel I wrote in high school was also a “spy thriller” of a sort. One of my childhood friends claims to have a copy of it (and threatens to unveil it if I ever get famous — more fool you, ha!). I suppose it’s possible that I might turn up a copy somewhere in my boxes in the garage of this house of exile if it ever cools off enough to look.
This is how old I am: the manuscript was typed on paper. Look up ‘typewriter’ on Wikipedia, kids. There are copies because I used ‘carbon paper’ which dates to the early Jurassic period, I think. This is back when computers relied on ‘punch cards’ instead of keyboards. I won’t make jokes about walking to school in the snow because right now that sounds marvellous (so hot and humid).
What do I remember of it? It was called Ace Spies Incorporated and I used a pseudonym as my author name (my favourite flower plus the last name of the singer whose scratchy 45 I was listening to a lot then in my retro outlook). Long before The Man Who Knew Too Little, it was a spoof about a woman who signed up to play a spy and then gets caught up in actual spy shenanigans. I made the Beatles into the other characters, cleverly disguising their names by changing them to Johann, Pablo, Hermann and gosh, now I’ve forgotten what I used for Ringo, though he got to play the big baddie and was very over the top, Peter Sellers-ish sort of gooning.
I’m sure it was pretty much awful, cringeworthy and full of in-jokes with my friends (still have a weakness for the latter though I think I’ve gotten away from the other two). I had fun and learned a lot about writing something long form. I had written film shorts, lots of silly short pieces, short stories, short dialogues — you got it, short things. I even had what I would learn later as the legendary ‘middle muddle’ where the story begins to go all wrong and gets bogged down. I also learned that talking about it endlessly taxed friends who were not writers (sorry, Chris!) and at the same time learned the simple lesson that laughing about it helped (thanks, Chris!) and sometimes a simple yet profound change fixed everything (someone changed allegiances and complicated everything in totally different ways).
There’s probably not much that Ace Spies Incorporated gave to Chastity Flame, but from the acorn do mighty oaks grow. Or at least from a goofy teen-age novel has a grown-up series of novels sprung. I should have dived right into another novel after it. What happened? I went to college and learned what I was ‘supposed’ to be writing. I tried to write it (yes, even poetry dun dun DUN!). Eventually I realised I had no interest in writing suburban novels of despair and little epiphanies or the like; I wanted to write what was in my head — all the crazy tales of magic, horror and sublime nonsense ready to spill out one way or another. Believe me, they’re much better in books than in life. I like my life quiet and my books crazy and not the other way around.