I'm really excited to bring you a new letter-to-self guest post (remember when Vanessa Gebbie
and Kerry Hudson
This time it's the turn of Andrew David Barker who's just released his novel The Electric, a coming-of-age tale about a fifteen year old boy, Sam, who 'discovers an old abandoned cinema playing movies made by ghosts, for ghosts'.
I was really captured by that line in the blurb. Very intriguing. Here's more:
Sam, along with his friends, Emma and David, find themselves drawn into a
world where the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Lon Chaney and Theda Bara are
still making pictures; where Harold Lloyd and John Belushi team up for
roustabout comedies, and Karloff and Lugosi appear in films scripted by
Edgar Allan Poe. Sam comes to learn the mysteries of the Electric cinema
and his part to play in its long and strange history.
With shades of Ray Bradbury, the more nostalgic work of Stephen
King, and the early films of Steven Spielberg, THE ELECTRIC is about
movies, ghosts, and that ephemeral moment in all of our lives,
You can win a copy of The Electric
just by commenting at the end of this post. Anyone who writes something between now and Monday 18th Nov will go into a hat and have a chance to win either the e-book or actual real life copy of the book - you just need to state in your comment which you'd prefer.
For now though, let's pass over to Andrew. It's 1991 and curtains are the way
to wear your hair.
Dear Me. The 1991 me. The
First off, let me tell you - it’s
going to take you a long time to get over school. You’re nostalgic at 16 and
that is a problem. Straight after you leave school life – from which you
receive no qualifications – you’ll find yourself working for a window fitting
firm for £10 a day, not knowing what the hell has happened. (Be warned: low,
low wages and struggling from week to week will become something of a theme.)
You’ll do that for a while and then
go to college. There you will try and recreate your school days by hanging out
with friends, drinking, making films, playing in bands, and generally doing as
little actual class work as possible. And like school, you’ll leave college
with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever.
You’ll barely be able to read and
write. You don’t even read a book voluntarily until the autumn of ’91. It is a
fantasy novel entitled Out of their Minds
by Clifford D. Simak. It’s not a great book by any stretch of the
imagination, but with nothing to compare it to, you’re blown away. You’ll
become a voracious reader after this, and the head-full of ideas you’ve always
had will begin to whirl and take some kind of shape.
Soon after reading Out of their Minds you begin to write an
outline for a comedic fantasy novel of your own. It is about a school kid named
Tony who is run over and dies only to discover that Heaven is run by a
villainous Elvis Presley. It is not very good at all, but at 16, you’ll think
it’s great. You’ll begin writing the novel with a school friend, Ben Waldram,
and together you’ll spend the next five years turning it into a trilogy! You’ll
never finish it.
During this time you’ll also play
in local rock bands around Derby and continue to dream of making a film. The
realities are, however, that you’ll simply drift from one job to another with
absolutely no sense of direction or purpose. You’ll work on building sites
(lots and lots of building sites: you’ll always keep coming back to this line
of work as your dad is a bricklayer), as a railway worker, a carpet salesman, a
factory worker (lots of factories), as a delivery driver, and as a night
watchman at a hotel.
In the late 90s you’ll join a rock
band as a lead guitarist and get signed by a small record label. You’ll record
a single, go on photo shoots, tour up and down the country, and live quite a
hedonistic lifestyle. You’ll think you’ve made it. You haven’t.
After four years for writing,
recording, gigging, and drinking (and more besides), the band will implode and
you’ll be left with nothing but memories. Also, you’ll be penniless. You won’t
make any money from the band.
A few months after the band split
you’ll find yourself back on a building site with your dad wondering, once
again, what the hell happened. Befuddlement is another theme you’ll have to get
It’ll take you another few years to
get over the band. Then you’ll start to make short films. You’ll make a couple.
They’re not bad. At least you think so. This leads to a long period of trying
to fulfil a childhood dream: that of making a feature film.
You’ll network like crazy. You’ll
meet a lot of people, and a lot of
sharks too. You’ll begin to write screenplays with Matthew Waldram (brother of
Ben, who you started out writing with) and you’ll go to Cannes in an effort to
hawk them around. You’ll make a lot of contacts. You’ll talk to big players in
Hollywood. Some of these big players will like your scripts. You’ll do a
rewrite on one of your screenplays for a company owned by a major star,
tailoring said script to suit his sensibilities. You’ll think you’ve made it.
You will make no money and sell not
one script. In fact, the aforementioned company will completely rip off the
central premise of your screenplay and make their own animated feature out of
it. It will make big money and a sequel will be greenlit. You’ll go back to
working on a building site.
However, in 2009 you will get the chance to direct an
independent feature film.
Reckoning will be a last-man-on-earth type story about one such man left
alone in a desolate landscape. To give himself some sense of normality, he
populates an entire village with straw people; he talks to them as if they are
neighbours, and even teaches young straw
people in school. However, before long his mind begins to crack and his
make-believe world starts to take on a life of its own.
The film is shot at breakneck speed
in two weeks during one of the worst snowstorms in England in a decade. Still,
the film really comes together, mainly because of an incredible leading man
(Leslie Simpson) and an utterly amazing crew.
You’ll spend the next year editing
the film and that’s when the cracks begin to appear. Not with the film itself,
but with the financiers. A series of escalating events lead to a complete
breakdown in communication and a very nasty situation unfolds.
By 2010 the film is finished and
getting stunning reviews. The financiers however, for reasons you will never,
ever fathom, block it from ever seeing the light of day. Again, you go back to
That is when you change your life.
You begin a job as a care worker for young lads with learning difficulties and
find it very rewarding. You get married to a wonderful woman whose support and
encouragement in your creative endeavours are beyond measure, and also, you step
away from everything and write a novel.
In writing it, you will dig deep
into your past – into your teenage years – and feel a sense of completeness you have never felt in any
of your creative pursuits before. You’ll find your voice (for want of a better, less-clichéd phrase)
and know that writing novels – where it is just you, no one else, pure and
simple – is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
All that you will go through won’t
be easy – I won’t lie to you – but that creative itch in your mind – that is
small, but still very much there when you’re 16 – will grow, and sometimes it
will overwhelm you. But everything you’ll go through will seep into your
writing later on. For good or ill, it will make your work wholly your own and
give you the strength to keep working at it, to keep writing, and to be true to
who you are.
David Barker, November 2013
Thanks so much, Andrew. I love that
your journey has been so varied, real highs and lows. All working to get
you where you are now.
Andrew David Barker was born in
Derby, England in 1975. He directed an
independent feature film entitled A Reckoning in 2009 and has since written or co-written several
screenplays. He has also had several short stories published. The
Electric is his first novel. He now lives
in Warwickshire with his wife.
So. Remember folks, to win a copy of The Electric say somethin' in the comments. And do remember to tell us if you'd like the e-book or the real book - we'll do two names-in-hats draws for this and the closing date for entries is end of Monday 18th Nov.