Is It Too Early To Mention Next Year?
I am a driven scribomaniac to the detriment of my personal life.
For many authors 2019 was another annus horribilis, as publishers exercised caution in a retrenched market. The competition grew fiercer but the books published (far too many of them) became tamer, and it often felt as if they failed to exist in our modern world. This is partly because of the minimum two-year lead time to publish a book – longer if it first involves a hardback. In theory books are recession-proof, a relatively cheap way of spending one’s leisure time and a reliable source of joy. But not always for the authors.
In 2018 I had my first (and last) pseudonymous thriller out, which failed to appear as a print book after the loss of its editor. This means that the ‘LK Fox’ brand is doornail-dead. I spent half of the year working on a major project and sent it to an editor for her view, but she hated it. I decided to back-burner it until I could put in more research at a future date, which will be summer 2020. Recently a friend of mine reassessed his career as a writer and decided to stop, in what I regard to be an act of great bravery. All creative people have thoughts of stopping and yet we are paradoxically driven on by the same negative feelings that feed us those doubts.
But this year was a bumper year for Bryant & May, with two novels published in the UK, ‘The Lonely Hour’ and ‘England’s Finest’, and next year there’ll be the biggest Bryant & May novel yet, ‘Oranges & Lemons’. While I was waiting for the edit to arrive I completed a stand-alone psychological thriller called ‘Summer Dies’.
So why write another psychological suspense novel now?
I only read/review books that I enjoy, but lately I received so many shockingly bad novels about girls abducted, tortured and murdered (mostly by female authors, surprisingly) that I thought I could ring the changes on this and try something new. ‘Little Boy Found’ (original title: ‘There’s Something I Haven’t Told You’) was different from other missing-child stories in some ways (the hypnosis, the same-sex couple, an unexpected approach) but it also followed a familiar path.
‘Summer Dies’ is intended to push the genre into a slightly different area. Like ‘Nyctophobia’ it takes place in bright sunshine, in a seemingly idyllic place (largely beside a pool) which turns sour – but unlike other novels in this area, it’s only after you finish it that you realise what it’s missing. ‘Nyctophobia’ didn’t sell particularly well, probably because I lacked the confidence to chase a larger publisher. I’m very proud of my four books with Solaris, but they didn’t get wide distribution because indie houses don’t.
With ‘Summer Dies’ I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of the greats here – Margaret Millar, Charlotte Armstrong, Vera Caspary. If the novel takes off I plan to write a second thriller in the same manner, a kind of domestic suspense style I’ve developed specifically for this kind of writing. Ideally I’d love to get it published next year but lead time is long in the publishing world. My output is unusually consistent; I am a driven scribomaniac often to the detriment of my personal life, but I’m surrounded by tolerant people. It really is a bit like being a serial killer (see homepage masthead) in that you always feel pressure building to write again.
Any day now I’ll be starting the edits for ‘Oranges & Lemons’. The cover art sketches are in but I can’t show them yet as they’re subject to change and I don’t want them to end up like those old Superman covers which featured scenes not in the stories. I’m pleased with the way the book has turned out – it was a lot of fun to write but I raised my game by creating an extra draft, which meant locking myself away for the summer, working every day.
Now I’m finally between books and am starting to make plans for the 20th B&M volume (the 18th by the US count, as the two volumes of missing cases are e-books there, which sadly means American readers miss the luscious hardback covers unless they buy from the UK).
And there are other irons in the fire. A TV series of Bryant & May is still in the wings and please God we won’t all be dead before it finally appears. I have, at the last count, outlines on a further six projects. Mercifully a lack of inspiration is something that has never troubled me – but I think that most people, given the right encouragement, will often surprise themselves.