Posts from the Past

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.

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