Beth Reekles – TRANSCRIPT
“Do you want a drink?”, Lee shouted from the kitchen as I shut the front door. That might not sound like the most impressive or powerful starting line, but it was the first line of my first book. And for me, it was the start of a journey because that’s what writing my first novel was for me: a journey.
Just for some background information, when I was 15, I started writing a book called “The Kissing Booth.” I posted it online, and it got 19 million hits. And when I was 17, I was contacted by an editorial, Random House UK, who said, “Hey! We’ve really loved your book. We want to publish it.” I was like, “OK.”
So, a week later, I went out to the Random House offices, got a three-book publishing deal with them, and I felt absolutely incredible. Aside from that, I’m currently doing a physics degree at the university, which is completely diverting away from the creative writing. I am not here to talk about my physics, and I am not here to talk about my books. I am here to talk about how I got started on this journey.
How many of you would say that your book wins? How many of you love letting your imagination run wild? Yeah, also I see quite a lot of hands raised. I would definitely put my hand up to both of those. I really got started writing back in primary school when I was six or seven. You were learning to make stories, you guys all remember in English lessons when your teacher would say to you, “We’re going to write a story on this topic.” I love doing that, and I love going home and making those stories even longer. Everyone needs tools to do the things they love whether that’s a rugby ball, or a musical instrument, or a sewing machine. For me, it was a laptop.
When I was 11 and started comprehensive school, my parents gave me an old laptop so I could start doing homework for school. I actually ended up not using it much for homework but a lot more for writing books. I never had any confidence in what I was doing; it was just a hobby. It was fun, it was something that I like to do: write stories.
But I was a bit embarrassed by it because I didn’t know anyone who really liked writing. It seemed like a weird hobby. I was a bit shy, a little bit introverted. I didn’t want to seem too weird, so I hid it. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell the rest of my family. I didn’t tell my friends. I am a teenager: sell-confidence can be a huge hurdle for a lot of us, it’s something that stops us trying new things because we’re scared that people will laugh at us or that we’ll fail at it, and then everyone will just keep reminding us of that failure for the rest of our lives. I didn’t — I wasn’t telling my parents. I wasn’t telling my friends. That was why; because I was a bit scared, and I had no confidence in my writing.
Let me take you now to the start of this journey. I am 15, boredom in my mind, I’m procrastinating homework, because it’s GCSE revision season starting, and I am looking for something to read. This was also a time that Twilight was in all the best-seller spots in supermarkets and bookshops, and it seemed like everything at that time was just vampires, and werewolves, and other paranormal creatures in young adult romances. I was really, really fed up of reading about that. I was just tired of it. I just want to read a regular high school romance with none of the super natural creatures.
But my bookshelf was fresh out of those. How many of you guys have thought about, “This is the kind of book I want to read. I am going to go look and try to find this kind of book. That’s what’s in the mood to read right now.” But nothing catches your eye. Or you start reading a book, and you realize “Oh, this isn’t what I was expected! This isn’t what I was hoping to read about.” You start imagining how it could’ve gone differently, how you think that book should have gone.
Well, that was kind of how I felt. And when I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read, I just decided to write it instead. Seriously, it was as simple as that. I’ve been thinking about the kind of book I want to read. I opened up a new Word document because I had all the ideas of these characters building in my head, and ideas for this story, and I just started writing.
It was also around this time a friend introduced me to something call “Wattpad” which is an online story sharing platform. I remember going to the bus stop one morning to go to school with her, and she just starts gushing about this book she’s reading. And I’m like, “Oh, my god! That sounds so great; what’s it called? I’ll go home later and get it ordered online, buy it and read it.”
And she said, “Actually it’s not a published book exactly, someone is writing it and posting it online chapter by chapter, for people to read for free.”
“Oh, that’s even better. I can read it for free.”
I go home later that day after school. I look up Wattpad, I look up the story, and I started looking at all the other stories on this website, and I realized there were thousands of others, mostly teenagers they seemed, who enjoyed writing. It was something I liked to do, but something I felt alone in. But all of a sudden, when I found Wattpad, I realized I wasn’t alone in this anymore. I have people to share it with.
So, when I started writing The Kissing Booth, I made the absolute terrifying and somewhat courageous decision to share my work. I haven’t done it before because I was scared that people I know will read it, they might be polite about it to my face, and say “Oh yeah, that’s really good.” And then, they might go and laugh about it behind my back.
Like I said, self-confidence was a big issue, but I could be totally anonymous posting online; nobody knew me. People who read my book only did it because it appealed to them; they wanted to. So when I start getting all these readers, it was quite slow building at first, but I start getting people reading my book, and then they take the time to leave a nice comment, and say, even just, “I can’t wait for the next chapter to be uploaded.” I felt validated.
For the first time, I felt like I wasn’t wasting my time with this seemingly ridiculous hobby. I was actually kind of good at it if all these people were reading it and taking the time to say, “OMG, this is awesome. I can’t wait for the next part.”
So, I stop hiding what I liked. I started telling my parents. I remember when I first told them that I like writing, and I was posting a book online. We’re just sat there watching TV, and I say, “Oh, by the way, I am posting a book online. I’m writing it, and it’s got like 50,000 people reading it.” And they were like, “OK, sounds good, carry on.”
Then I start saying, “By the way, my book’s got like 300,000 reads,” “It’s got a million reads,” “It’s got 5 million reads.” And this number started getting bigger, and I got more confidence. My parents said, “Wow! this is like pretty serious then. If this many people are enjoying it, you must be doing something right. You’re putting a lot of effort into this.”