What’s stopping you from writing and publishing your first or next book?
What was it that helped you write and publish your first book?
You may be surprised by what it was that helped my guest Stephen Havard write and publish his first book. I’d never have guessed. But not only did it help Stephen write and publish his book, it also helped him with mental health problems he was encountering at the time.
A very warm welcome on Hugh’s Views And News to Stephen.
It’s January 2011, and I was sitting at my desk at work feeling depressed. It had only just gone 4.30, and it was already starting to get dark, the grey drizzly day now being consumed by blackness. The advent of the shortest day last month hadn’t taken effect yet, and my mood was as dark as the picture outside the office window.
Christmas had been great; time with the family and a period away from the laptop was just what I needed. Unfortunately, this had only been a brief respite, and here I was once again sitting before a computer in a job I hated more and more by the day.
I was stuck in the rat race with no way out, and it was draining the life out of me more and more. I needed something to spark me into life; the only question was what, though?
My job was the main issue, but the option to leave wasn’t possible right then. I had a young family to support and couldn’t just jump ship. I’d have to persevere with it for the time being and find another outlet to lighten my mood.
That outlet came unexpectedly to me a few weeks later as I browsed the BBC website and noticed that the quiz show ‘Pointless‘ was looking for contestants.
I’d loved quizzes from an early age and had even auditioned for another quiz show, 15-to-1, without success after leaving university in 1997. Over the intervening years, my passion for quizzing had remained, regularly going to pub quizzes and still avidly watching every quiz show on the TV. I had never applied for another quiz show, though.
Was this a sign?
Pointless was one of my favourite quiz shows and something that played into my relatively obscure knowledge. This contestant call which was now staring back at me was surely telling me to apply and once again try and get onto a TV quiz show.
I spoke to my wife, who was seated beside me and urged me to apply and follow my dream. She knew how much I hated my job, how it affected my mental health and made me quite hard to live with at times. She wanted me to be happy and believed that the simple act of applying for this quiz show would help in that regard.
So that very moment I applied, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my wife, I spent hours perfecting our application in the hope that what I was writing would be what the show wanted. I say ‘our application’ as my wife had agreed to be my partner on the show as well.
Now I’m not the most patient of people, and as the weeks passed without any news, I thought the worst. Had my attempt at TV stardom fallen at the first hurdle? The very thought that it probably had depressed me even further.
Over a month later, I was again sitting at my desk and facing a now-familiar dilemma. What was I going to do to get out of the malaise my life was currently in?
While I sat there debating the options, my phone started to ring. A quick glance at the screen told me it was from a private number, another bloody call centre, I guessed as I declined the call.
Less than a minute later, I heard the familiar beep that indicated a voicemail had been left. Strange, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialled my answerphone, those call centres don’t usually leave voice messages. And as I listened, my heart began to beat more quickly. The voice at the end of the line was from a casting researcher at Pointless who wanted me to ring them back!
And to cut a long story short, my wife and I seemed to impress them on that phone call, Cathy being rung moments after me.
Our successful telephone audition led us to a hotel in Cardiff a week later for a face-to-face audition.
Now, this was the scary bit. Not only did we have to impress the researchers there, but we also had to do it in front of a room of 30 other hopeful contestants.
I’m quiet by nature but knew I had to shine here and create a persona that the TV execs wanted on their show. Having my wife there helped me as she is naturally more outgoing and chattier than me. I treated that day as a job interview, I knew I had to impress, and that’s precisely what we did as a couple of months later we were at the BBC Television Centre in London recording our episode of Pointless.
It was a day I’d never forget as we came away with a Pointless trophy and the jackpot!
So how does appearing on a daytime quiz show lead to me writing my first novel, I hear you ask.
Well, since that first quiz show appearance in 2011, I’ve auditioned and appeared in many more shows with various degrees of success. Quizzing has become a great passion, and I love to appear on TV to show off my knowledge and test myself against other great quizzers.
I’m also convinced that appearing on them vastly improved my confidence and helped with my mental health.
Writing a book had also been something I’d always wanted to do, but like most things, that passion had been put on the backburner with work and family life taking precedence.
Then in March 2020, lockdown happened, and my life, along with the rest of the country, changed utterly. I was ‘working from home’ permanently, and my daily commute of over 2 hours had suddenly disappeared.
Despite the awful circumstances of the pandemic and lockdown, I sensed this was an opportunity to follow that dream of writing a novel.
The only question was what to write about?
This had been a conundrum for so long and another reason why I hadn’t yet typed any words. Yet during those first few weeks of lockdown, the idea of my debut novel locked into place, and it was an idea that was staring me in the face all along if I’m being honest now. Why not write about my other great passion, that of quizzing!
And that’s what I did over the next seven months as ‘The Duel’ took shape. It incorporated the world of quizzing, which I knew well and required very little research with a murder mystery.
‘The Duel’ was self-published in November 2020 and has been well received by readers that have bought it. It’s a story I’m happy to have told at last, and I hope it may lead to a full-time writing career eventually (fingers crossed).
About Stephen Havard
Stephen Havard lives in Swansea, South Wales, with his wife and two children, he also has 2 stepchildren.
Currently working in the IT industry, he enjoys quizzing and watching Swansea City football club in his spare time.
His quizzing exploits have resulted in a few TV appearances, with varying degrees of success!
The Duel is Stephen’s first novel.
Connect With Stephen
Stephen’s Book – The Duel
Ashley White is desperate. An ill-advised investment in cryptocurrency has left him in financial meltdown, with the bank threatening to repossess his home and a wife that knows nothing about the mess he is in.
A new quiz show called ‘The Duel’ is about to hit the TV screens, offering a mouth-watering 2 million pounds to the winner. The show is to be hosted by Patrick Reed; the scandal-hit presenter who hopes it will revive his flagging career.
Ashley hopes the show can be his way out of his financial problems and does all that is necessary to appear, even when those things have murderous intent.
My thanks to Stephen for writing this guest post.
If you have any questions or comments for Stephen, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.
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