Stuart G. Yates
It’s true what Stephen King says. Always write the truth. Almost everything I’ve ever written stems from my life experiences. Even my first novel, penned when I was sixteen, drew on deeply felt fears, which I harboured since my early years. There was lots of joy too.
Growing up in a world of Teddy Boys, the Merseybeat and motorbikes, my first memory was of sitting astride my little three-wheeled trike at the end of the alleyway running behind my street, which was my world of imagination, a place to escape. It was 1959 and I was two years old. Imagination was always very important for me.
We lived in Cheshire then. About a dozen years later, my home town of Wallasey was absorbed into Merseyside. Often, Sunday afternoons were spent down at New Brighton, and I remember looking out across the river to Liverpool. The Liver Buildings were coal-black then. I don’t think anyone ever really thought about cleaning them. Now, they shine pristine white.
Every Wednesday my mum, who worked in Marks and Spencer in Liscard, would take me over to the shops on the train. It was her day off. In those days shops shut for half-day closing on Wednesday and these little journeys became something of a ritual. The underground station was attached to Owen Owen’s, one of the many department stores which populated Liverpool back then. I always remember my first Christmas in Primary school. I was five. The door to the classroom opened and there was my older brother. He’d come to take me to see the Christmas lights, and those same department stores, one of which he worked in. What a wonderful day that was.
My brother, like most young men in those days, was a member of a group. He played drums quite brilliantly. His group is immortalised in one of the bricks outside The Cavern, in Matthew Street, that great celebratory landmark to the Beatles and all the other groups who played there. Interestingly, for me it was not the Fab Four who grabbed my attention. I was mad of Freddie and the Dreamers and one afternoon, when I was around eight or nine, I arrived home to find Freddie sitting in my parents’ living room. It was a dream come true. All arranged by my wonderful brother, with a friend who looked freakishly like the legendary Freddie Garrity. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know this, and I loved my brother dearly for allowing me to be in the presence of my idol.
Always a natural rebel, school for me was something of a challenge. I hated it. Hated my teachers, hated the lessons. I loved English, but perhaps that was because I was such an avid reader. I always found writing and creating easy. Art was my strongest subject, and I often used to miss other subject lessons in order to waltz into the Art block and sit and paint. No one ever found out. I have always regretted not going to art school, but by the time I was sixteen, I’d had enough of education. I wanted to burn my tie on the last day, but my mum threatened me with death if I did as she had already sold it to the neighbour’s boy from across the street.
Over the course of the next dozen years, I drifted from one dead-end job to the next. Starting at Smith’s in Church Street, Liverpool. Being surrounded by books and L.P. records was something akin to heaven. I always remember gazing at the fiction bookshelves, and the rows of ‘Edge’ books waiting to be bought. I suppose I knew, even then, that I would be an author one day. I bought books by the truckload, read and read and read. I wanted my own library, joined World Books and slowly built up what I always wanted. My love of books remains.
My first foray into fiction was when I was twelve. I loved Agatha Christie and wrote a whodunit for my Nan. I remember hand-stitching the spine – now there’s a laugh; it had less than twenty pages, typewritten, paperback book size. The hours I spent on it! Anyway, she read it and could not work out who the murderer was.
Often my working life was interrupted by prolonged periods of unemployment. These periods were never depressing for me as I would lock myself away in my room and write. Endlessly. I suppose it was this that gave me my ability to write quickly. I have no fear of the blank page. I simply sit and write. People often ask me where my stories come from and, if I am honest, I have no idea. They simply pop into my head. I have always been blessed by a fervent imagination, nurtured many years ago in that back entry where I would play, often by myself, and create worlds in my head. When it rained, I’d continue in my bedroom. Childhood was never dull for me. Stories dominated every thought. In 1979, I submitted a full-length novel to Jonathan Cape. It was rejected. I didn’t stop. I must have submitted it over a dozen times. I still have it somewhere. However, it is not something I would ever want to resurrect.
I travelled, mostly around Europe, and met some wonderful people, witnessed some fairly hair-raising events, and fell in love. More than once. And all the time, I wrote stories.
When I at last woke up and realised that if I was to ever have any of the things I wanted, I needed an education. I went back to school at twenty-nine. I took ‘O’ levels at night school, and the following year, ‘A’ levels. I seemed to have acquired a thirst for knowledge and I breezed through every exam. I could have done it when I was at school, but the teachers were so dull. They hated me, I loathed them. When I had the chance to go to university, I plugged for teacher-training. Perhaps to have the opportunity of giving children what I myself never had. Only one teacher ever took any time with me, and I remember him with the fondest of memories. Eddie Davies. He taught me English. There’s a moral there somewhere.
Life is weird.
So, six years after setting out on my education, having got married, lost all of my family in tragic circumstances, fathered beautiful daughters, I qualified as a teacher, moved to Cornwall, and took up my first teaching post. I loved it. I still do, some twenty-four years later. The profession has allowed me to travel and live in the most beautiful places.
For my fiftieth birthday, I went to see my favourite band Genesis at their reunion concert at Twickenham. It was during this amazing experience that I suddenly realised something. The last time I’d seen Genesis was some thirty years before. I used to dream then of being a published author. Dream. I’d never done one damned thing about it. Inspired by this Road to Damascus moment, I promised myself that I would do all I could to achieve this elusive dream.
In 2009 one of my books was accepted for publication. Since then, I have had twenty-two books published, by numerous publishers, and at least three more should appear by the end of this year, 2016. I write like someone possessed, but I am running out of time. I have to make up for all those lost years of doing nothing.
My dream, however, has yet to be fulfilled. I am blessed with three lovely girls, all of whom I am immensely proud. But, on a personal, creative level, I long to walk into Waterstones and see my books on the shelves. This for me is the ultimate prize. Who knows, one day, perhaps soon, it might just happen.