#5DaysOfFiction: Day One

Ten years ago today, my first novel came out.

This isn’t an April Fool’s joke, nor was it then. In fact, I’m happy to say that my less-than-entirely-auspicious debut date turned out just fine for me: ten years on, the book is still in print (though it likely won’t be for much longer). In the interim, I’ve published ten other novels, with twelfth due out on Tuesday, which ain’t a bad run for that span of time.

In celebration of that anniversary, and as a lead-up to the publication of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, we’re going to have Five Days of Fiction! Each day will feature a question, with guest answers from various authors of my acquaintance, and a chance for others to weigh in via comments or Twitter. Anybody who responds to the question will be eligible for a book giveaway: some days it will be one of my books, while others will be books that have had a big influence on me. You have until the next day’s question gets posted to answer; after that I’ll pick a winner.


To start us off, let me ask: what’s the earliest story you remember ever writing? Pretty much all of us made up stories at some point, even if we didn’t wind up pursuing it as a more serious hobby or career. How old were you? What kind of story was it? Did you ever show it to anybody?

One lucky respondent will receive a copy of Doppelganger — not Witch; I’m scouring the wilds of the internet to find the original edition, the one that came out on April 1st, 2006.

For me, the answer is a little mystery story I wrote when I was (I think) eight. The woman babysitting me and several other kids that summer taught us out to make little bound books with cardboard and cloth; mine was red, and I wrote a story about a girl named Jessica whose cat was stolen. I felt obliged to fill all the pages of the little book, so as I went along in the story, my handwriting got larger and larger . . . and then in desperation, when Jessica was going to get on a plane after rescuing her cat, I listed everything she packed, because I didn’t want any blank pages left. Yeah. Not exactly proof of future genius, that. 😛

And now for the guest responses! Find out what ~fabulous~ ideas the pros had when they were six . . . .


In second grade I wrote a story for school about a boy, his robot dog, and their space-rocket adventures. It was two pages long, and opened with a fight against a space dragon. By the middle of the second page I had run out of ideas, and so revisited the space dragon. Which they soundly defeated. — Tim Akers, author of The Pagan Night

I honestly don’t remember. I was always writing. Which one was the first, I could not tell you. I CAN tell you that my dad kept until the day he died the first POEM I ever wrote. Aged five. On the topic of a broken alarm clock. Don’t ask me, I can’t tell you what I was thinking. — Alma Alexander, author of Empress

I have a notebook from first grade (with Snoopy on the cover) and it contains the following story:

Andy rolled rocks down the hill.
Amy saw Andy roll rocks. It looked fun.
They rolled rocks together.

My first fantasy story was an Anne McCaffrey fan-fic several years later. . . — E. C. Ambrose, author of Elisha Barber

There’s a whole pile of preschool juvenilia in my parents’ basement, but the first story I actively remember working on was a medieval knights-and-princesses spy thriller very heavily based on my favourite Lego Castle set. It was early training in working out stories that had space for me even though the tools you have only give you one little yellow lady head. — Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes

It was a pastiche of The Six-Million-Dollar Man, but all his cyborg parts were tricked out with spikes and stuff. Even as a kid, I was all about playing with other peoples’ ideas. — Harry Connolly, author of The Great Way

‘Fritz’s Rescue’ about a dog who, well, rescued people. It was written on my father’s typewriter, and illustrated in felt tip. I was seven. — Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series

This is where I admit that I really didn’t write much fiction—other than school assignments—until I was in my early 30s. I know I wrote stories for grammar school English classes, but I don’t remember what they were about. It wasn’t until college that I wrote something that wasn’t for a specific course. The first 4-5 pages of an SF novel, which I would describe as the very first shoots of the Jani Kilian stories. I don’t recall what I wrote, though I know my protagonist was a young—early 20s—female revolutionary. But I can’t remember the details. — Alex Gordon, author of Jericho (coming out on Tuesday!)

My parents have a ‘book’ that I wrote when I was around nine years old. It’s basically a pasteboard cover wrapped in fabric and a bunch of blank pages between, all self-constructed. It’s quite an eclectic collection illustrated in crayon. There’s an SF story about an alien that I met and helped return to Mars, a fantasy ‘retelling’ of my favorite book at the time which bears no resemblance to the actual story in the book, a few poems (one quite dark about my will to live being gone), and some family folklore. There’s even an author photo in back, which is really just a polaroid glued onto the last page.

I also have to share that the first actual story I wrote was when I was twelve. It was an original fairy tale about a spoiled princess named Oriana and the dangerous robber Bad Bart who rescued her from other dangerous robbers and turned out to be her long-lost childhood peasant friend. It was TEN WHOLE PAGES typed! I was so proud. I would also like to point out that I wrote this a few years before The Princess Bride came out, so astonishingly, that wasn’t an influence. — Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven

I cannot recall the title I gave it but it was a thinly veiled rip-off (I was nine years old and didn’t know the word ‘homage’) of the Bill Badger stories by a classic English children’s author Denys Watkins-Pitchford, aka ‘BB’. I was always making up stories before that but I’m pretty sure this was my first attempt at writing a book-length one down. By book length I mean school exercise book! — Juliet McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass

I was six. I remember clearly because I was in love with my first grade teacher, Mrs. Pace and she said I was very creative. The story was about a young orphaned girl who had to go live with a giant called “Monster Mouth” who was actually very kindly, but chewed with his mouth open. Turns out the young girl taught Monster Mouth to chew with his mouth closed and he was able to go out in public. I really wish I still had this story. I’m sure my memory of it is far too polished for what I actually wrote. — John Pitts, author of Night Terrors (due out on April 11th!)

I was eight years old and it was a tiny tale about meeting a ghost, so my tendency to write the fantastic was already established. The stories that followed were about meeting a giant ant and what would happen if gravity was turned off. — Sean Williams, author of Hollowgirl

3 Responses to “#5DaysOfFiction: Day One”

  1. Busy April – Taking notes along the way

    […] OF DRAKES, by hosting other writers on her site and asking us questions over the next five days. Today’s question is, What is the earliest story you ever recall writing? I am in awe of the memories of my fellow […]

  2. Juliet

    I’m not sure about the first, but at various stages in my under-10 career I remember writing a Harriet-the-Spy style semi-fictional journal, some Enid Blyton boarding school fanfic, for which I made up my own school and got very bogged down in detailed uniform and building descriptions, and something about a girl who lived on a farm. Also a whole series of stories about a clumsy superhero rat who messed things up a lot (but it always all turned out right in the end). Recently I’ve been reading the Paddington books to my kid and I think Paddington’s adventures were probably an influence. Plus I really liked rats. (Still do!)

    In my first year of secondary school (so age 12) we had an assignment to write a novella-type length thing, in pairs (!), in English class. I managed to avoid having a partner, and was the only one who actually finished the thing — maybe 20-30,000 words about two girls who built their own spaceship and went into space. That was definitely strongly influenced by a book series about some kids who (yep) built their own spaceship, but I can’t remember the names of the books or the author now.

  3. #5DaysOfFiction: Day Two | Swan Tower

    […] down and thinking, “I want to be a writer.” I’d made up stories before then (see yesterday’s post), but that was the first time I really thought about telling stories for other people to read. My […]

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