Tuesday, 24 November 2015
So, here we are again. My third book with Unbound and my first novel.
Well, not quite my first.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – certainly for well over 40 years. I was always writing as a boy. I serially submitted articles and stories to magazines and I entered writing competitions and won a few prizes. I wrote my first novel when I was 16.
It was, of course, terrible.
I joined the police in 1980 - I was 18 at the time - and moved from Cornwall to London. And always, in the back of my mind, was the thought that ‘London is where all the publishers are’. Well, most of them anyway. I’d been busy and, by this time, had written two novels – both comedy sci-fi.
They weren't very good,
I sent them out to publishers anyway. Sometimes I got no reply. Sometimes I got a polite ‘Thanks but no thanks’. Occasionally I was offered useful feedback. I took it onboard, re-wrote the books (no mean feat in those far off typewriter and carbon paper days) and sent them out again. And got rejected again. And again. And again.
Three years later, I had enough rejection slips to wallpaper a decently-sized master bedroom. But I persisted. And I wrote a third novel.
Which was a bit better than the first two.
Meanwhile, a spec Doctor Who script that I’d sent to the BBC caught the attention of the then producer, John Nathan-Turner, and I was asked to work it up into a full script for Colin Baker’s incoming Doctor. Sadly, the story didn’t get commissioned in the end (too expensive).
Interestingly I recently co-hosted a charity event with Colin and he suggested that I re-write it as an audio adventure. I might just do that.
A decade passed. I started a small press comics imprint with artist James Murphy and writer Sarwat Chadda and we published several titles before finances forced us to shut up shop.
By now I'd written five novels. In between writing new novels I re-wrote the older ones. And they got better.
The millennium came and went and I had seven novels written. By this time I'd stopped sending them out to publishers. I knew that they weren't good enough. Instead I concentrated on learning everything I could about novel writing. I joined writers' groups. I watched documentaries on TV and the internet. I talked to writers at literary festivals and other events. I read books about writing written by writers.
And then, in 2004, I heard from a friend that Gerry Anderson was looking to bring back Captain Scarlet in CGI form. So my friend and I pitched a couple of scripts. And we got a summons to Pinewood Studios to meet Gerry who liked them and invited us to write four scripts for series 3 as scripts for series 1 and 2 had already been commissioned. So that's what we did. But series 3, for various reasons, never happened. Such a shame. One of my episodes had SPECTRUM and WASP working together. Troy Tempest and Captain Scarlet on the same bill? It would have been amazing.
In 2008 I wrote my first non-fiction book (Joined-Up Thinking) and landed myself an agent and a book deal with Pan Macmillan. And that, in turn, helped to get me a writing gig on the QI TV series and The Museum of Curiosity. Finally, I was a professional writer and it coincided almost perfectly with my retirement from the police. By this time I had 10 unpublished novels under my belt and ideas for many more.
And they were starting to read pretty well.
Two further non-fiction books (Constable Colgan's Connectoscope and Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road?) followed, plus a collaboration with my lovely and brilliant friend Dr Sue Black (Saving Bletchley Park). At the same time, I began to think that maybe my novels were now good enough.
And so, with tens of thousands of hours of writing and re-writing behind me, I went through them all and brought them up to a standard where I could finally say, 'I think that's good enough to be published'. If there's one thing I've learned in the past 54 years it's that, in the world of writing, persistence is everything.
A Murder to Die For is the first of those novels.
I hope you'll consider pledging on this book. It's going to be a lot of fun. And here, in this shed, we'll have some fun too. We'll discuss comedy and murder mystery, our favourite sitcoms and the best (and worst) literary detectives. We'll swap anecdotes and curious tales of murder and mayhem. And I'll regularly update this shed with interesting features, facts, photos and exclusive content.
The journey to full funding and publication is going to be murderously good fun.
Do join me.