Posts from the Past

Thursday, 16 November 2017

This is the News

It's been ages since my last bit of news, so I thought I'd share a tiny update. Things are moving along behind the scenes with my debut novel, The Killer You Know, and it's all still a bit exciting and daunting that the book is going to be out there in the world in less than a year. There's now an Amazon link to the book, as well as the blurb, which I've also put up on the writing page above. 

When the novel first sold, I said a few things for the Bookseller announcement that never made the final article, so I'll post them here as I think they offer a bit more of an insight into what the book is about: 

"I’m absolutely delighted, and still a little stunned, that Lucy and the amazing team at Sphere and Little, Brown will be launching The Killer You Know. It’s genuinely a dream come true for me. I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which other people’s memories of who you were can affect who you are in the present. I was struck by the idea of a reunion where a recollection of a friend’s jokey remark, made in the baffling heat of adolescence, is seen in a sinister new light. It seemed irresistible to me. Whether for good or bad, you can’t escape the role nostalgia plays in modern culture, and I had a great time exploring that with film podcast host Adeline, and the rest of the book’s characters, as they tumbled into their own pasts. I really look forward to sharing this adventure with readers."

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

My First Book Deal (Or Agghhhhhhh!)

So… this happened: Thriller Seekers Strike Big Deals

I started this blog in July 2011 with an entry about picking up writing again after nearly a decade of trying to achieve some sort of music career. I was cautious, planning nothing more than an experiment. I'd learned my lesson: dream big, burn hard. I just wanted to know if I could write and finish a novel. Could I bring myself to submit anything I wrote? Could I get some short stories published, or at least get some positive feedback that might enable me to better my writing? Full disclosure: I'd also just met my future wife, a librarian and English graduate, and perhaps this was an attempt to impress her—the nerd version of popping a wheelie. I never thought too much about where it would take me, it was really just an excuse to re-immerse myself in the world of books and literature, a place I'd always found safe and comforting.

I was a weird child, often spending hours in front of my bookcase just gazing at the spines of my books, perhaps hoping that somehow their contents would just osmose into my brain if I stared hard enough. So many of my strongest childhood memories involve books, and Stephen King's characters practically walked me through adolescence. Ever since getting the news two weeks ago that a real, actual publisher wanted to buy my novel, these thoughts and memories have been looping in my head—probably because my brain has overloaded with disbelief and is now in safe mode.

I was on my annual holiday in the Canaries with my dad when I found out. We were in a restaurant and it was late, so my guard was down. I knew we were on submission, but I'd asked my agent Joanna to save any bad news for when I was home and to only text me if we had good news. I'd planned for rejection, because after nearly six years of writing and submitting I'd learned that about 90-95% of the time things end that way. I was texting home when I saw Joanna's name appear at the top of the phone alerting me to her message, and immediately I knew things were about to change. More than one publisher was interested in the book, I found out the next week. I did get a bit emotional then. It didn't take long to conclude the deal, although it felt like a lifetime. Once I'd spoken to Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown, I knew it was really going to happen. My book was going to meet the world.

I've been sending a lot of emails and making a lot of phone calls. There are many people I'm going to thank over the coming weeks and months, but I wouldn't have persisted with writing if it hadn't been for my wife. Not only did I probably start all this to try and impress her, but she has read everything I've ever written, and patiently explained to me time and time again where and where not to use question marks. (It's harder than it sounds if you're from the West Midlands, where everything is a question.) I also am incredibly lucky to have found my agent, Joanna Swainson, who believed in this book from about 20 minutes after I sent it to her and is bloody brilliant.

For every short story I've had published, I've also had hundreds of rejections. And before this novel, there were others that never saw the light of day. It was difficult often, but never more than it was fun, and now it really feels like the apprenticeship I always told myself it was. When I look back at that first blog, which ends with "the adventure starts here", I think that adventure has just ended. A new one is starting, and I am so glad that it will be with this novel. It's the novel I'd always been trying to write, always wanted to write; the one where I found my voice. It's about love and friendship and murder, and about our relationships with our younger selves; it's about music and films and podcasts, about growing up in a country village and trying to relieve the boredom. It's got some philosophy in it too, and stuff about how great and how dangerous nostalgia can be.

But don't worry about any of that for now, what you need to know is this: some old friends, the sort most of us had growing up, are going to meet up for a reunion as adults. They're going to start talking about the strange kid they all knew, the one who joked he'd be a serial killer when he was older. How funny, ha, ha, ha, what a character he was. Only then they are going to go online, put in the details they collectively remember about what he said he'd do and where. And what they find won't be a joke; it'll make them doubt everything they thought they knew, and drag them from the safety of their present lives into their dangerous shared past.

THE KILLER YOU KNOW will be published by Sphere/Little,Brown in late 2018. Thank you so much for reading up until now.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Agent News!

It's been a bit exciting around here recently, and it's with great pleasure that I can now announce that I'll be represented by the awesome Joanna Swainson at Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency. I've had some fantastic meetings with the agency, and suffice to say they've completely blown me away. I'm really excited to be working with Joanna on my future writing projects!   

Monday, 5 September 2016

And Along Came Three

It's like that thing about buses, you know? You wait for one for ages, then three short stories turn up instead. I've been rattling around in the world of novel writing lately, so all things short have been on the back burner. However, this month I have three new short stories out.

My weird tale 'This'll Take You Back' has taken a few knocks over the years, but it has finally found an amazing home in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine. I've always had a real soft spot for this story as it concerns two of my favourite topics: the suburbs and nostalgia. It's about some friends who stop off for a late night walk around their old estate only for things to get very strange, very quickly. You can get a digital copy here.

Next up I'll be back for my fourth appearance in the always brilliant The Fiction Desk anthology series. This anthology, titled Separations, will feature my ghost story 'Home Solutions for Mould', which placed second in The Fiction Desk's 2015 Ghost Story competition. It's about a couple trying to find common ground again in the aftermath of a bereavement, and is way more fun than that sounds. You can get a digital or paperback copy here.

Last of all, I've written a creature feature to close Pantheon magazine's Hestia themed issue. Despite starring a species of possibly alien, sharp-toothed groundhogs, it's oddly the most serious of all three stories--and it is worth buying for the lovely illustration of these fictional beasts. You can get a copy here, and the story is called 'Top 20 Exotic Pets that Frighten Away Intruders'.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Press Start to Play Reviews

Here are some links to a few more reviews of Press Start to Play that were kind enough to mention my story Desert Walk.

It's been really lovely and inspiring to hear people liked the story, and a bit mind blowing that something I wrote here in Oxford has now been spotted by friends in the book shops all the way over on the west coast of the USA.

More Press Start to Play reviews:

Tangent Recommended Reading List 2015

Stymie Mag

Sense of Wonder Blog

NY Journal of Books

The BiblioSanctum (Audible audiobook review)

Nameless Zine

Some reviews on blogs: here, here, and here

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Press Start to Play Unleashed

Just a quick post about 'Press Start to Play', the anthology on Vintage in which my short story 'Desert Walk' appears. It came out today! I'm officially a writer published by Penguin. I'm sure if I nipped back in time and told my younger self that this is where his writing adventure would end up, he'd be very pleased.  And then he'd faint. And then he'd ask me for some fantasy football tips.

There's been quite a few write-ups on the anthology appearing online and elsewhere (including in Entertainment Weekly and Publishers Weekly, the latter giving the anthology a starred review). I'll post some links to the ones here that have been nice enough to mention Desert Walk. As one of the newer writers in the collection, it's been a real boost! I'll keep adding relevant ones as they come in, including a few interviews I've conducted that are due to appear soon where I wax philosophical about all my favourite old games from the days when computers were made of wood and clay. 

TANGENT - A recommend for my story in this very thoughtful review.

KIRKUS - A brief, but pleasing mention in this one from the mighty review site. 

AUTHORLINK - Another brief mention here, in another positive review overall for the anthology.

and some interviews:


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ghost Stories: Press Start to Play, The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition and more...

In many ways it was an ordinary night: I brushed my teeth, sang myself a lullaby, put on my night cap... Just before resting my head on the pillow, I checked my phone one last time and noticed an email from super-editor John Joseph Adams in my inbox regarding a submission I'd recently made to one of his magazines. Now, usually this would have been enough to make me at least a little bit excited, hopeful masochist that I am. But this was the night of my wedding, and I was actually in quite a posh hotel with other things on my mind. Besides, it was likely a rejection, so I nonchalantly opened the email and scanned the contents.

There were more words in the email than I'd expected. That was my first observation. Lots more. It was good news. Really good news. But, it was news I had to keep private for a while, so super-awesome was it. I shared the news with my wife-to-be, then turned my attentions to marrying the hell out of her.

Cut to now, way more than a year later, and finally the awesome thing that I read about in that email has been announced. My story, 'Desert Walk', turned out to be a perfect fit for a computer-game themed anthology John was putting together with Daniel H. Wilson for Vintage. Press Start to Play is due in August 2015 and my name is right there alongside names like Hugh Howey, Cory Doctorow, Holly Black, T.C. Boyle, Rhianna Pratchett, Andy Weir, and a whole bunch of amazing other writers, which is just ridiculous. As you can tell, this is still blowing my little mind now, and there's absolutely no way I can be cool about it (before you tell me to). You can read more about the anthology here. 'Desert Walk' is a ghost story, one I wanted to be like M R James writing an episode of Spaced. Find out if I succeeded in August!

Speaking of ghost stories, I found out last week that I placed 2nd in The Fiction Desk's 2015 Ghost Story Competition. It's been a strangely quiet year on the short fiction front, possibly due to my last 6 months being more novel-focussed. This was a real honour, and a much needed confidence boost! Coincidentally, the story 'Home Solutions for Mould', is another that combines modern technology and the supernatural, although it is a much darker story. I only hope that the readers of The Fiction Desk don't get thoroughly sick of me. Not only will 'Home Solutions for Mould' appear in a future issue, so will my short story 'Just the Stars to Look Up To', which I sold earlier this year. That tale follows the increasingly absurd attempts of a young man to find a suitable role model in an age of endless childhood.

That's almost all my news. The only other thing worth mentioning is that a few of my stories are available on a cool new site/app called QuarterReads. It's a nifty little place where you can buy short stories from all sorts of great authors for just a quarter, which in English money is just 16 pence. Do pop by if you're a writer/reader, as it's a great project that is worthy of support.