Author J-L Heylen muses on the creative process.

Anyone who asks will soon find out that I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-forties. You might conclude from this that perhaps I am new to writing.


Of course I’m not. I’ve been a writer for years.


I’ve been a writer since I was capable of stringing two thoughts together.


It’s just that I never showed my writing to anyone. I couldn’t. My writing comprised of personal journals that I wrote for the sole purpose of relieving whatever angst I happened to be feeling at the time. They were a way of sorting myself out – of making intellectual sense out of physical and emotional confusion.


They were records of personal discovery; railings at things I knew I couldn’t change, but which still hurt; attempts to teach a future self what I once was; and testaments to what I would become.


In the pages of those jottings I see loves lost, or ultimately won. I see insights that I didn’t realise were so profound at the time, but which make perfect sense in hindsight. 


I see me.


When I started writing novels, I thought I had reached a different stage in my writing. I thought I was finally free to write what came to my imagination, rather than what sprang from a deep well of desire or despair.


As a Science Fiction, Steampunk, and Speculative Fiction writer, I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t writing about me anymore. I was writing for me. 


I was writing for the sheer joy of sharing my inner worlds, and the characters that populate them, with others. I was writing for the story. I was writing to be read.


Ah, how wrong I was.


Lately, I’ve been having some ‘issues’. The usual things, you know. Work stress; relationship anxiety; a crush I couldn’t shake; a complete overhaul of who I thought I was and what I thought I wanted.


A complete surprise? Out of the blue?


“Read your own books, woman,” a friend told me. “They’re full of this stuff.”


And they were right. Amongst the story, within those pages, buried in plain sight in the way the worlds are designed – there lies me.


It’s a me I always convinced myself wasn’t me. It’s a me that I thought others couldn’t see, or that I thought I would never let anyone see.


My books are full of a secret I thought I would take to the grave.


And it turns out that the only person who ever thought it was a secret, was me.


The creative muse can be a fickle Mistress. Servitude to her can be beautiful, and cruel. 


Any writing will help you find yourself. Especially when you aren’t looking. 


J-L Heylen is the author of six self-published works in the genres of Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Lesbian Fiction and Steampunk.


She lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her wife and three dogs, a wayward cat, and a coffee machine, and writes commentary, blogs, short stories and novels. She also helps manage lesfic down under, with fellow speculative fiction author Kate Genet.

Links to books, contact details and other information can be found here, or through the links below.