When you’re a writer—especially one who has been (sort of) promoted to the position of full-time author—people tend to ask when your next book is coming out. It’s a fair question, and if you asked it of, say, Peter James [name-drop alert]—who lives just down the road in Henfield and who I have seen and chatted with on several occasions—[end name-drop alert] the answer is relatively straightforward, and you both know you are referring to his wildly popular Roy Grace books.
In my case, the answer is not so simple.
When someone says to me—in person or via e-mail or through my wife—“I really liked your book; when are you publishing your next one,” there is a high likelihood that they will come away disappointed because, whichever of my books they enjoyed, the next one is going to be nothing like it.
My first two books were collections of humorous essays, a sub-category traditionally regarded as “not commercially viable” but which is appreciated by people who like a book they can dip in and out of and re-read favorite bits from. But, alas, those are very likely to be the only such books I ever produce.
I followed that up with a humorous travelogue cum love story about how I met my wife. Had I been a well-known sports figure or reality TV star or even someone who had gained dubious fame for climbing up a water tower with a deer rifle (“He was a quiet guy, kept to himself, you never would have guessed…”) then I might have had publishers lining up around the block but, being an unknown and not having access to a deer rifle, I didn’t even attempt to find a publisher for that book; I simply published it myself. It was a personal project, just something I wanted to do and I never expected to sell many. That book, however, has become far and away my best seller. To my utter shock and surprise, complete strangers are reading my tale of ineptitude and budding romance and leaving embarrassingly glowing review about it and, occasionally, asking when I am going to write another.
Well, unless I can convince my wife to let me loose in Ireland for a couple of weeks to see if I can find another woman crazy enough to marry me (and then convince them both to become Mormons) I doubt there will be another book quite like it in the foreseeable future.
Then came my novel; the culmination of my life-long dream to become a published author, the start of my fiction career, the book a gratifying number of people have read and enjoyed and, yes, asked about a sequel.
I have mentioned before how the plot for that book was sparked by a business card, but I have no idea how it grew into a tale about a child prodigy turned world-class gymnast turned Miss Teen England turned Travel Agent slash vigilante superhero. When I glance through that book these days, it seems as if it belongs to someone else. I have no idea how I wrote it, I am not certain if I could do it again but I do know I don’t want to try.
Another writer might have welcomed this genre confusion as a liberating experience, but I am not that writer. I agonized over whether I should be writing humor or straight-up crime thrillers or even slink back to essays. The resulting angst culminated in a muddled outline for a second-rate crime novel that I didn’t have the heart to inflict upon the reading public.
So I wrote a children’s story.
This isn’t as out-of-the-blue as it sounds; the idea of writing a story for my grandchildren had been growing along with my first grandson from about the second trimester. Being stuck in plotting purgatory, I turned away from crime and wrote an adventure starring my two grandsons that featured a time-shifting cloak, medieval England, a dark forest and a dragon. It was good fun and I enjoyed the process immensely. Then I turned back to the recalcitrant novel.
But a funny thing kept happening. Even while trying to sew up the plot holes in my crime thriller, I kept thinking about the boys’ story and how they could have further adventures and how they might be linked together and before long I had outlined a seven-book series involving Arthurian legend, Queen Victoria’s daughter, Will-i-am Shakespeare, Druids, a small farm just outside of Horsham and the Battle of Britain.
I expect this will keep me busy for some time.
So, if you are waiting for my next book, I am afraid you are in for a disappointment, unless you like children’s literature.
|Yeah, this is what the G-boys are getting from us for Christmas this year;
I can just hear it now, \”But Granddad, we wanted an Xbox!\”