One overcast day in November I sat down at a study cubicle in my school library. I was 18 years old and in my final year at City of London School, and the library was on the third floor, looking out over the River Thames. I was supposed to be working but instead I stared out of the window across the water, and when I finally picked up my pen what I began to write in the back of my exercise book wasn’t schoolwork but the notes for a story.
To this day I can’t tell you why I started that story that afternoon. I’d written stories before, but no more than any other bookish kid – usually they were done for a school assignment or quickly abandoned. But for some reason this one stayed in my head and sometime over that winter I opened up a Word file on my computer and started writing. I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to see what would happen.
I kept writing, and then kept writing some more. Winter turned into spring, spring turned into summer, and by the time I finished at the end of that year what I had wasn’t a story but a 100,000 word novel. Somewhere along the line I’d had it suggested that it might be publishable, so I sent it to some agencies to see if they were interested. They weren’t, but by the time that had been established I’d finished a second novel and was ready to send that out instead.
I kept writing through my time at Cambridge University, leaving three years later with a BA in Philosophy and a very good agent, Sophie Hicks from Ed Victor Ltd. My first three novels had been children’s fantasy, but the one that finally got published was children’s non-fantasy, a book called To Be A Ninja (later reprinted as Ninja: The Beginning).
It took me a little under 7 years to go from that day in the library to being published for the first time, and it’s been just short of another 7 years from that first publication to today. As I write this it’s the first days of 2012, I’m 31 years old, and once again I’m home in London – I’ve lived in different cities and countries, but London’s the place I always come back to. Along the way I’ve worked for a year in the Civil Service, taught English to kids of various nationalities in England and Romania before doing it full-time for six months in China, spent an interesting period working in North London as a bouncer, and most recently went back to college for a GDL/LPC in order to become a solicitor. I’ve also studied a few martial arts (boxing, Krav Maga, and ninjutsu), gone in for competitive ballroom dancing (yes, seriously), spent an enormous amount of time reading (especially Agatha Christie, Tolkien, Jack Vance, Jim Butcher, and Robert Jordan), and skated across most of London at one time or another (still my favourite way to get around. Don’t laugh, it’s more fun than a car or bus and with London traffic it’s about as fast.) I also love gaming, both on computers (Final Fantasy, Suikoden, Fire Emblem, Halo, EVE) and tabletop RPGs (Star Wars, WoD, and especially D&D – I play once or twice a week and GM too).
And that brings us up to date. I’ve needed a new website for a while and with the upcoming launch of the Alex Verus series in March 2012 I decided to sort out a proper webpage. I’m very happy with the Alex Verus books and his world – it’s the best work I’ve done and I’m looking forward to writing more. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them!
– Benedict Jacka, 5/1/12