John Alex Taylor


Epilepsy is a condition with many different forms and many causes. Besides having epilepsy, I worked supporting people with epilepsy throughout my career in social care. Other people may experience the condition in a wholly different way to Rachel in the novel.

Rachel’s experience of epilepsy is based on my own, although mine has been fully controlled for many years – I still take the pills – and while it was severe, it was never so dangerous. However, the psychological effect it had on me in my teens and early twenties was profound and life changing. Living with epilepsy presents its own challenges, because if you don’t talk about it, no one will know you have it until they witness you in seizure, and that can and does shock people.

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Most people see writing as a solitary activity, but the truth is that there is a vibrant community of writers, writing groups and workshops to discover, as well as a lot of advice, much of which can be confusing and contradictory. And be aware that there are plenty of rip-off merchants who claim that they will turn you into the next big thing.

If you are thinking of taking up writing, but don’t know where to start, the answer is simple, JUST WRITE! No one else need see, and to begin with, it will probably feel alien, but pick a theme, a memory or a picture, and write the first thing that comes into your head.

If you get the bug, and want to learn more, then READ – not just the story, but how the writer draws you into her world. Read anything, and learn to read with two heads on! One head enjoys the story, and the other learns from the writing.

Then write again.

If you still have the bug, I can think of no better place to start than to read Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING. It is very accessible and full of advice from one of the true masters.

For those who want to dig deeper, here are some of my favourite writing resources:

In my first few years of writing, I did three residential courses with The Arvon Foundation. These were an excellent introduction, giving me the feeling that I wasn’t just writing, but living the experience and getting inside my characters.

Emma Darwin’s blog, This Itch of Writing is full of gems. Every time I visit ‘Itch,’, I learn something new.

My favourite editor (and one of my favourite human beings) is Debi Alper.

Together, Debi Alper and Emma Darwin run the amazing six-week online Self Editing course for Jericho Writers. The course has been a starting point for many published writers, and I have studied it twice.

Jericho have many other resources, courses and events on their website.

Dr Stephanie Carty’s course on the Psychology of Character and her subsequent book, Inside Fictional Minds, has helped me enrich the characters in my novels.

I have been to a number of Andrew Wille’s lectures and day courses. Andrew is both a gifted and inspiring educator and a generous-hearted individual.
Highly recommended.