Write What You Like No.2: What On Earth Was I Thinking?
Fret not, for ‘The Foot on the Crown’ (official title) will be published, although now you have me thinking about splitting it into two volumes. I never write long, which makes me suspicious that I had too much fun with this – probably more than the average reader can stand. (Not, dear fellows, that I would consider any of you average.)
What held me up for so long was that I revealed the novel’s punchline only in the last ten pages, which required me to make most of the book somewhat vague and allusive. With the truth about the set-up now acknowledged from the earliest chapters everything flows better.
But here’s the problem. I started it almost a decade ago, when its bleakly comic tone was more acceptable. Now we live in a time of feel-good fan service, safe spaces and trigger warnings, and while I applaud many Woke attitude adjustments they’re not an ideal fit with the cruelty of the Dark Ages. I spent much of my writing time merely trying to keep the main characters alive and sometimes failing horribly.
I loved ‘Game of Thrones’, which brought fantasy to the small screen until the concluding episodes wrecked such careful world-building. It wanted to broaden the appeal of the genre. It couldn’t just be about appeasing the social misfits who had taken the show slightly too much to heart. GoT went to some dark places, but did so without a shred of humour. The deadly serious tone made the absurd believable. ‘The Foot on the Crown’ wants to have its cake and eat it, describing gory battles but pointing up the ridiculous elements inherent in the genre.
No wonder my American agent was appalled. Really, the real problem is one of tone. I derive an inordinate amount of pleasure in writing about death and destruction. You’ll find it in my earliest short stories, and in my most recent work (new tales coming up in several anthologies soon).
Speaking of which, ‘Total Midnight’ just got longer by three tales (one of which is a new Bryant & May story), which brings the number of pages to – I don’t know, the document is so long that it takes about ten minutes to load. My publishers say they’re interested but so far there’s been silence. While I still have the energy I’m taking one more pass at this what-was-I-thinking epic.
In the meantime, ‘Bryant & May’s Peculiar London’ comes out next month, with the book’s first appearance at Waterstones, Islington on July 6th, when I’ll be accompanied by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, talking about Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon respectively. And Bryant & May, of course.