The details of my birth aren’t important.

I hate the “a new star appeared in the sky” or “the clock struck twelve and I began to cry” bullshit.

Kim Jong-il fell out a woman, Charles Dickens (pretending to be David Copperfield) fell out of a woman, you fell out of a woman, I suspect I fell out of a woman. Fin.

I don’t understand why we need to add supernatural phenomena to something as banal and miraculous as childbirth.

It’s sort of a main character syndrome. Illness of the champion. Chronic Protagoniśtasia.

I’m not in charge around here. I’m approaching 29, have 19 grey hairs, and my knees make shotgun noises when I bend down. I write stories. Go find someone else to ask your serious questions to and leave me alone.

Mind you, I am what you’re focusing all your attention on right now. That flickering flittering firefly attention being slowly squeezed by other media.

Watching two TikToks at a time, watching TV but not really watching TV because it’s “nice to have something on in the background you aren’t even listening to” and the incessant pop music machine that vomits out so many songs that it’s actually quite astounding that they all have the same beat, structure, and lyrics.

The details of my writing are important. The first paragraph of this took 15 minutes to write. The second took seven hours to write. That’s a lie; both took two minutes. That’s also a lie; it took me a day to write each paragraph. All of those are lies. The truth is it took me exactly as long as I wanted to write and edit them.

Ever talked to someone? Awful experience, wouldn’t recommend.

Ever written about talking to someone? Someone you really liked or really detested? It’s unadulterated bliss.

You say all the right things. You’re effortless, but not too effortless. Cutting but respectful. You know all the right things to say and all the right words to use.

Then you have to build better target dummies, you know? Ones that are just sort of…

They’re not really like you but say things the things you’re afraid are true so you have to improve the first person, the better you that’s less afraid, and people love reading it. Because they see themselves in the person and the dummy. Shitting pigeon and beshitted statue.

Diving into fiction feels so much better than nonfiction, because fiction was made for the imagined main character who isn’t me, you, David Copperfield or Kim-Jong-il. It’s the main character we ALL want to be.

It was made for you to wear.

Real life is not stranger than fiction. It is barely preferable and I’d probably hate it were it not the primary operating location where I write my stories.

If you don’t believe me or think that’s sad, consider why there are over 1,500 megachurches in the U.S. that make money hand over fist and don’t pay taxes and don’t openly disclose their financial status.

They make money by selling you a story about every good person being okay and every bad person being not okay forever and makes up for the fact that you’re going to feel a lot of pain at some point and then stop living.

Regardless of whether the story is true or not, people find it compelling and prefer the former part rather than the latter.

I am a sentient monkey born on a watery ball that’s been spinning around another radioactive ball for six billion years at roughly 1,000 miles an hour and for any number of reasons I could stop breathing and fall down and nobody knows what happens? Confusing, odd, weird. Suspicious, even.

There’s a plan based on an intangible morality implanted in a super-being beyond all possible understanding? Smart, ineffable, mystical, cool.

Stories win out over real life every time.

When you really get down to brass tacks, real life is just a bunch of hairless monkeys squawking at each other for basically no reason. Fiction is when honest people add goals and purpose, giving reality momentum and moving it forward.

So that’s why I like fiction.

The reason I write fiction, however, is because I can’t work within nonfiction.

To me, real life just makes no sense and I can’t simply exist within it.

Asperger’s Syndrome.

People don’t make sense. They cry when they’re happy and laugh when they’re sad. They don’t tell you when they’re angry, they just expect you to guess. They assume you know not to tell people certain things you’ve heard without explaining why. They act unpredictably. What makes one person excited makes another person scared.

I try to imagine a world without books and stories featuring gleaming alabaster heroes and dripping Stygian villains and it’s just a train station at nine in the morning with a morass of grey commuters on their way to the Job™ at the Company™ with briefcases containing stupid Forms™ and slurping from Styrofoam cups containing stupid Coffee™ and I just grab one and push them up against the wall and scream questions at them to try and find out why they do the things they do and I get pinned to the ground by some police officers and I’m struggling, I’m just kicking and yelling that they need to get off me, I’m punching out and headbutting the tarmac, blood dripping down my forehead, shrieking that I’m just trying to understand I’m just trying to understand I’m just trying to understand why everyone and everything is being so unreasonable and acting so oddly.

It gives me a place where I don’t have to hurt you.

And it’s therapeutic, which makes it all the more strange when people ask “Are you any good at it?” or “Have you written anything I might have heard of?”

Doctors don’t ask you if you’re particularly good at feeling well or ask you how niche or marketable your disease is; they just focus on fixing you.

Writing for me is a dialogue between myself and everyone else. Why are you doing that? How did it feel? What’s interesting you? The feedback I get on whether a scene is naturalistic or not is incredibly important.

I’m learning the emotional braille.

What makes people tick and how to avoid making people tock.

I don’t care if it’s niche, off-trend, divisive, derivative, moralising, reductive or anything else; each one is my attempt at finding ley lines between myself and others

I’m trying to human right.

Because I was built with a different heads-up display and a differently wired brain that causes more everyday problems than being seen as the quirky man who uses human as a verb.

Some people talk about literature as if it’s real estate.

Grand moats and epic castles, only for some people who are the best.

I’d like to be the best, but there’s joy in learning that cardboard loo rolls make good battlements and crushing up cellophane in your palm allows you to make breaking waves on your tinfoil moat.

I can only speak from my experience of writing, but there’s a local percussion group dealing with the very elderly and infirm where they offer them African drums.

You can see them grin without any self-consciousness when they touch the frayed Djembe rope and they run wrinkled fingers across the pulled-back animal skin and then start to tap along and bob their bodies.

It’s the same thing. We like to journal, make music, seek rhythm, seek a tribe.

I worry people forget that. And I don’t know where I’d be except stumbling and struggling, surrounded by seven point seven billion masks if I couldn’t write my way under one, even just one, to convince myself that I’m not alone or odd or misshaped, unable to tell what’s bad practise or bad being, unique style, or personal damage, coded feature, or a game error.

I don’t worry for consumers, who seem to keep outranking creators with their eponymous generals of “curators” or “critics” as if you can be an expert at telling me what I wrote or judge the old man on the drum, rubbing his fingers on the worn rope fittings and thinking of the dog he had as a kid called Paddy.

You can’t curate anything. By the time you’ve picked up every beautiful piece of shell, the rising sea levels will have drowned you.

You can’t criticise anything. It just happened and you’ll miss the next thing that’s happening.

As I’ve said, there are no main characters apart from the ones we make up in stories.

All we can hope for is that we are remembered, perhaps fondly, as the name at the bottom or the picture in the dust jacket, and are thanked for having made a main character.

Someone so wonderful, so self-aware, so kind, so beautiful, so courageous and so perfect that they were just like us.