Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?
A: I’ve spent most of my life thinking the great SF writer Robert Heinlein had three rules of writing, and I’ve tried to follow them. I remembered them as:
2. Put it on the market
3. Keep it on the market.
Recently I discovered he actually had two more – finish what you start, and don’t rewrite except to editorial order. I’m glad I didn’t know about that last one: I think rewriting is hard but important.
Q: If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would you want to meet and why?
A: Raymond Chandler. His prose style is often imitated but, while it seems simple, it’s deceptively hard to do well. Although he lived in California, he went to school in south London, so we’d have things to talk about other than Philip Marlowe.
Maybe that should be Valentines’ day (apostrophe after the ‘S’) – because Wikipedia tells me that there was more than one St Valentine matryred in Roman times, and honoured these days with roses and heart-shaped chocolate.
Whatever, I confess I haven’t taken St Valentine’s Day too seriously in the past. Not since that time I booked a romantic meal for two and arrived with Laura at the restaurant to find they had hopelessly overbooked. (We bailed out and went home with a bottle of champagne and takeout fish and chips, all consumed in bed!)
But now – to my surprise – I have a romance novel, published only two days ago, so maybe I need to treat this festival with respect.
All right, I admit it’s a romance novel between a man born in 2010 and woman who dies in 1944. And there’s time travel, and flying bombs. But nevertheless, there’s a love triangle and romance in there!
It’s a been a strange and hectic couple of days since Fifty-One was published on Monday. And there’s no end in sight. As a writer, what I really want to do is hide away and write another book. But there are promotion duties to be done!
If you haven’t encountered Fifty-One yet – whether you’re seeking a Valentine’s treat or not – you can get it here:
It feels like it’s been a long road to get here, but Fifty-One is now published.
I looked back over my emails, and it’s almost exactly a year since Myra Fiacco at Filles Vertes Publishing sent me the publication contract, and we embarked on the publication journey, conducted largely by email and Skype (me in London, Myra in Idaho).
It was a lucky chance that brought us together. Myra liked a tweet I posted during a PitMad Twitter pitch party in December 2016, and – despite FVP not looking for science fiction – I sent her a query.
(The Tweet, by the way, was “He’s born in 2010, she will die in 1944. Stranded in wartime London, can he save her without wrecking the future?” Still a pretty accurate pitch for the book.)
After a year of editing, rewriting, cover design and back and forth over this and that, there’s now nothing more to do to change the book. It’s out there, and I need a good sleep (before I engage in an orgy of promotion activity, obviously!).
I’d love to know what you think of it. And I’ve got this idea for a sequel…
Fifty-One finally hits the streets (and Internet) on Monday 12th February. The ebook will be available internationally, and a print paperback will be available in the US. The print version for those of us stranded in the UK, will follow in March (date to be confirmed).
To make things easier, I’ve updated the various links and collected them together here.
Exciting for me, obviously. But we’ve reached the point in the publication journey where the writer can start to feel helpless. The words have been writ and re-writ, and then they have been through the editing wringer.
The cover has been designed and re-designed. (Have I mentioned the cover, by the way? I love it so much I’m worried I’m turning into Catherine Cookson.)
And now it’s at the actual physical printers, so what can you do but worry?
One worry that has plagued me recently is the question of Winston Churchill. Here in the UK, we’re mildly obsessed with Churchill, and that period of the War when it looked inevitable that all was lost, Britain would have to surrender and Europe would be at the mercy of Hitler.
In fact, as we know, during 1940 and 1941 Churchill helped the nation rally, and we stubbornly held on until the USA and USSR helped remove the chestnuts from the fire.
It sometimes feels like the 1940s were the last period when Britain really had no doubts about what it was doing as a nation. Ever since, we’ve not been sure whether we’re European or Atlantic, a big country or a small one. All this means that Churchill – despite his faults – remains a hero. Recent movies- such as Dunkirk and Darkest Hour – suggest the fascination with those days remains strong. And the muddle over leaving the European Union shows we still aren’t sure what we’re doing.
In my book, Fifty-One, Churchill plays an off-stage part early on. My hero, Jake Wesson, is sent back from 2040 to 1941 to foil Churchill’s assassination. That mission is accomplished suspiciously easily, and the book heads off in other directions. But the recent Churchill worship got me worried that my compatriots might feel I had committed the sin of doubting Churchill’s importance.
Early on, Jake and his partner Lew Brockley are being given their orders by their boss Ed Robinson. When Robinson tells them there has been an unauthorized time jump back to 1941, and their mission is to counter it, we get this exchange:
Robinson said, “We’ve checked it out and the system says it’s at least 90 percent likely they’re behind the assassination of a politician, a guy called Winston Churchill.”
“Should I know him?” Jake didn’t share Lew’s interest in obscure periods of the past, but the thoughtful expression on Brockley’s face said he’d heard of Churchill.
“Well, he was prime minister for a year, as I’m sure Agent Brockley could’ve told you,” Robinson said. “I’ve had it checked out: if Churchill isn’t shot after a year in the job, he turns out to be an inspirational war leader.”
“How can anyone know that?”
“You know I can’t talk about that, Jake. But you can trust me on it. Churchill shouldn’t die, and your job is to save him.”
“Hold on.” Lew frowned. “What’re these guys trying to achieve by killing Churchill?”
“I assume they want Britain to lose the war.”
“But the Allies won without Churchill,” Lew said. “So they failed.”
“Maybe their computers aren’t as good as ours. But we still need to undo the damage,” Robinson said.
The recent Churchill worship got me worried that my compatriots might think I had committed the sin of doubting Churchill’s importance.