All my recent talk of book launches and anniversaries has left me thinking about what I’ve achieved as a writer and what I still want to achieve. If I think of my career in terms of how a farmer manages their fields, then I’d say I’m currently in a fallow period after a couple of pretty decent harvests. I caught the crest of two waves originally when I a) started publishing independently before most others, and b) wrote about zombies just as the living dead became massively popular. And then, a few years later, I enjoyed another prolonged purple patch when Guillermo del Toro somehow stumbled on a copy of HATER and, for a time, everyone wanted a bit of me.
For those of us who just happen to love writing and who hate self-publicising with a passion, being an author is not the easiest of career choices. You keep doing it because you can’t stop, and with every page you write you convince yourself that this could be the next big thing, even though you know that competition to actually be the next big thing is impossibly fierce. And then when you’ve finished writing and you hand your work to someone else to read, all the confidence you’ve built up evaporates and turns to crippling self-doubt. Well it does for me, anyway.
A frustrating amount of this is completely out of the writer’s control. You don’t control the market, you have no influence on current trends, you can do little to make sure yours is the right book seen in the right place at the right time… and yet, we keep at it. Sometimes even the very thing you’re trying to write can conspire against you.
Happy New Year to you all. I thought I’d kick off 2015 with a quick look back at my 2014 releases (just in case you missed any), and a peek at my plans for 2015. Despite being a pig of a year for me on many levels, I was surprisingly productive, releasing two full-length novels (STRAIGHT TO YOU and STRANGERS), a zombie novella collection (LAST OF THE LIVING, which included ISOLATION and THE COST OF LIVING along with a number of other shorts), and the long-overdue limited edition hardcover of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH.
So what does 2015 hold? There’s a lot being planned behind the scenes, and I thought I’d pile the pressure on myself by announcing the major projects I’m working on this year. Notice there are no timescales quoted here (I never seem to keep to them anyway!) but this is the order I’m tackling these novels.
My first middle-grade novel. Think ET meets GODZILLA and you’re halfway there.
THE SPACES BETWEEN: ELYSIAN FIELDS
The first book in my long-teased horror/ science-fiction/ noir crime series. If you’ve not heard me talking about this one before, here’s a quick tease: Several years ago London was destroyed in a white-hot nuclear haze. Millions of people were displaced, and huge numbers ended up in rapidly constructed newcities like Elysian Fields. Designed to house around one hundred thousand, the population of Elysian Fields is several times that. It’s a dangerous, sprawling hell-hole of a place ruled by gangs, violence and fear. When a prominent business leader’s son disappears, social worker Greg Dawson becomes embroiled in the mission to snatch him back. But the more Dawson discovers about Elysian Fields, the more he comes to realise there’s a huge gulf between what we’re being told and reality. In the spaces between the two, absolutely everything changes.
Yes, I know… I’ve finished this book twice already, but I’ve still not got it quite right. I had a rollercoaster year last year, and in the midst of all the ups and downs, I’ve realised where I was going wrong. Mark Thane is a downtrodden and overlooked nobody. When he discovers he only has 17 days left to live, he’s forced to question everything. The country is on the verge of revolution, and Mark unwittingly finds himself at the eye of the storm. This time last week no one knew who Mark Thane was. By the time his number’s up, the entire world will be watching his every move.
A sick and twisted love story. Adam’s wife died last summer. He’s not going to let her die again.
So there you go. Plenty of work ahead. Add to this more signing events and the continued expansion of the Infected empire (Infected Films and Infected Audio, anyone?) and that’s more than enough to keep me busy. I hope you’ll stick around, because 2015 is going to be a cracker!
Since STRAIGHT TO YOU was released, a lot of people have been asking what’s next. That’s a difficult one to answer, but I thought I should at least try.
I’ve a couple of completed novels in the bag which I’ve told you about previously (STRANGERS and 17 DAYS). As yet no decisions have been made as to when/how they’ll be released. All options remain open, and I’ll let you know as soon as I do. There are a few other things in the pipeline…
I’ve been saying for a while that I’ve had my fill of zombies, infections, apocalyptic pandemics and the like. That’s not strictly true. There’s one story left that I want to tell, and I’m working on it at the moment. I hope to have it finished by April/May this year and released soon after, probably as an ebook-only novella. I also have a number of short stories due in the next few months, and I’ll let you know as and when each of those releases are scheduled.
But the project I think I’m most excited about right now is THE SPACES BETWEEN. It’s a four book horror/science-fiction series set in the near future. If I was to describe the tone of the books, I’d have to say they’re like a head-on collision between QUATERMASS and Stieg Larsson’s MILLENNIUM TRILOGY (well that’s the vibe I’m going for, anyway). I’ve been planning these novels for several years now, but have only recently begun the actual writing process. Here’s a bit of hastily thrown together blurb for TOMMY, the first book in the series:
Nine years ago London was wiped off the map as a result of a catastrophic terrorist attack. Millions of displaced people have since been rehoused in a number of hastily constructed newcities, the largest of which is Elysian Fields, just outside Birmingham.
Parts of Elysian Fields are no-go areas: dangerous, virtually lawless and hopelessly overcrowded. The government and police troops do what they can to maintain order, but it’s increasingly difficult. The residents are on their own.
There are some who still try to help. Greg Dawson is one such person. An old-school social worker, he’s now forced to carry a gun and wear full body armour to work each day. But the job and the people haven’t changed, just the situation, and Dawson’s as dedicated to protecting the vulnerable as he always has been.
When Tommy Huxtable, the five year old son of a powerful party member, is taken, Dawson’s called on to find and recover the child. But the deeper he digs, the more he discovers that nothing is as it seems in Elysian Fields.
You can keep up with my progress with TOMMY and other projects on the ‘Forthcoming Releases‘ page on this site.
I did say at the beginning of 2013 that you probably wouldn’t hear very much from me this year and I was right. Apart from the re-release of AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION, I feel like I’ve hardly put my head above the surface. That’s going to change in 2014. Remember this image I posted in September?
Left to right: the 17 DAYS, STRANGERS and STRAIGHT TO YOU manuscripts in various stages of completion!
These three manuscripts have taken up most of my year, but I’m pleased to say they’re now finished. STRANGERS has been through the beta-read process and come out the other side (thanks to those who read it and provided feedback), and 17 DAYS is currently with my agent. But it’s STRAIGHT TO YOU that I want to talk about today.
One of the things I’ve been doing since I finished both the HATER and AUTUMN series last year has been revisiting my older work to try and bring it up to scratch. I felt a real need to clear the decks of older material before moving onto anything new. When I signed with Thomas Dunne Books back in 2008, these novels fell through the cracks and I didn’t want them to be forgotten. The rewritten version of TRUST was released in July 2012, and this year saw AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION back in print in a completely revised and newly expanded edition. Now it’s the turn of the final ‘missing book’ – STRAIGHT TO YOU – to get a lick of paint, except on this occasion the changes are more than just cosmetic.
I’m planning several posts about the book over the coming weeks. I’ll tell you about the substantial differences between the old and new versions, why I’ve rewritten the book, the adventures I’ve had with approaches for the film rights, why I’m re-releasing it now and how that’s going to happen, and more besides. But for today, I guess all you need to know is this: the re-written, re-edited and repackaged STRAIGHT TO YOU will be released through Infected Books on 14 February 2014 (yes, I’ve gone for Valentine’s Day… what better date for a heartbreaking apocalyptic romance?). It’ll be available as an ebook and trade paperback.
“The sun is dying. The temperature around the world is rising by the hour with no sign of any respite. It won’t be long before all life on Earth is extinguished. It might be weeks, it might be days… we may only have hours. Society is crumbling. The burning world is rapidly descending into chaos.
Steven Johnson’s wife is hundreds of miles away and all that matters is reaching her before the end. He has to act now, no time to stop and think. Every second is precious. Tomorrow is too late.”
If you’re a fan of the original book, don’t worry. The spirit of the story has definitely been maintained. Even though it’s very nearly twenty years since I began writing the first version of the book and it’s my lowest selling title by some margin, people still regularly stop me to talk about STRAIGHT TO YOU. The story still holds up today, perhaps even more so than back in the late nineties. I don’t mind admitting that I still cried like a baby when I typed the final scenes this time around! I’m looking forward to giving the book the release I think it deserves and bringing it to a much wider audience in early 2014.
Same content really, just given a fresh coat of paint and a better address in readiness for the new books (and more regular updates) which will soon be forthcoming. I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you know how the new novels stand…
Is with a crack team of beta-readers, who are currently beta-reading. I’m nervously awaiting their feedback…
STRAIGHT TO YOU
I’m well into the second draft, and on course to have this new version of my debut novel ready for January 2014 (terrifyingly, that’ll be twenty years since I started work on the original book).
Revamped, revitalised, and ready to start rewriting. The target is to have the book finished by the end of October.
Proof of work being done… on my office floor from left to right, 17 DAYS, STRANGERS, STRAIGHT TO YOU
I always find it difficult to keep this site updated over the summer. I have a large family, and with the kids on holiday from school and university, finding time to work becomes frustratingly hard. Writing has to take precedence, so the website and Facebook, Twitter etc. inevitably suffer. The girls are all just about back studying now, so expect to hear from me more regularly again.
I thought it was time for a quick update to bring you up to speed with a few projects I’m working on now that AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION is done and dusted. You should know me well enough by now… everything here is subject to change and nothing’s set in stone. The first part of this update will give you an indication of why that’s true.
The Ups and Downs and Ups of Writing. Weird name for a post, I guess, but I think it’s quite apt. You see, I reckon this is one of the best jobs in the world. In fact, I love it so much it feels wrong to call it a job… most of the time. Things don’t always go to plan.
You’ll probably remember me posting about this novel earlier this year – round about the time I’d put the finishing touches to it and sent it to my agent to hear his thoughts. Well, those thoughts came back, and after another couple of reads, I added a few thoughts of my own too.
The book’s not right. It needs more work. The themes are there, the story is there, but it’s not quite working. There are a couple of reasons why which I won’t go into in detail here because they wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense out of context. Suffice to say I’d made a huge character misstep along the way, and had also misjudged the tone of parts of the book.
Up. Down. Up. I was on a high when I delivered the manuscript, followed by a crushing low when I realised it hadn’t hit the mark. But now, with the benefit of discussion with my agent and a couple more months thinking about the story, I know exactly what I need to do. Up. Down. Up. Strangely enough, I’ve done this once before. The exact same thing happened when I was writing DOG BLOOD, and that turned out okay…
I remain insanely excited about 17 DAYS, more so than ever in fact, but the rework is inevitably having a knock-on effect on other projects as I’ll be giving it priority over the coming months.
I’m about 40,000 words into the third and (hopefully) final draft of this book, and hope to have it done by the end of July. I’ll then start thinking about how best to release it. Expect to hear more about STRANGERS – the closest I’ll probably ever get to a vampire novel – later this year.
STRAIGHT TO YOU
Is going really well… first draft is done, ready to start work on the second. I’d previously talked about serialising the second draft online from this month as the book was being written, but I’m putting that on hold temporarily for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I need to work something into the second draft which I don’t want to do ‘live’, so to speak. Secondly, because the additional work on 17 DAYS means STY won’t be touched again for a while. At the moment, if I can get some work done on the second draft of the book over the summer, I’d hope to serialise the third draft online as I’m writing it from September/October onwards. I’ll tell you more about this completely new version of my debut novel in the coming weeks to whet your appetite. Incidentally, I started writing the original book on 1st January 1994 – I want to properly release the new edition in January 2014 to mark its twentieth anniversary. Bloody hell, twenty years. Now that makes me feel really old…
An odd title for a post, but I think it’ll make sense in the end. Bear with me. And bear with me also because this is likely to be a longer and more personal ramble than usual (though there’ll be a book-related announcement later, so it’s worth sticking with me to the bitter end).
I’ve been relatively quiet (for me) recently, and I’ve already explained why – I’m working on a number of different projects which I hope will see the light of day over the next year or so. I talked about a few of them recently.
When you’re not spending as much time online talking to people as you’d like, it’s easy to lose a little focus and to start to doubt anyone is still listening. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my career – how far I’ve come, how far I want to go, and how I intend on getting there. There’s no great plan or roadmap and there never has been. I just do what feels right at the time, and I hope people like it. It’s those people I want to talk about today. As you’re reading this, that means you!
A few weekends back I had a couple of great experiences which helped put a lot of things in perspective. The first took place over three nights in Wolverhampton. If I mention the band Marillion, I generally expect one of two usual reactions: many folk in the UK usually say ‘ah yes, Kayleigh!’, and many folk outside the UK usually say ‘What? Who?’
For those who don’t know, Marillion are a unique band who, for more than twenty-five years, have produced some exceptional music. I got into them in the early 1990’s and have slavishly lapped up every release as well as seeing them live almost thirty times. They might not be to your tastes, but give them a whirl. You can take a crash course here (click here if the widget below’s not working or, if you’re new to the band, visit this page and get a free CD sent your way):
Yes, I’m still here and still alive. It’s been a couple of weeks so I thought I should update you and let you know what I’ve been up to (to prove I’ve actually been working). So here we go:
I’m 15,000 words into the second draft of this brand new novel. A spate of brutal murders occur in and around a small town. The bodies of the dead – savagely mutilated, defiled – are piling up with terrifying rapidity. There’s no apparent motive, and no obvious connection between the killings, but they all started when Scott Griffiths and his family arrived in town…
AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION
Is written and edited, and is currently being formatted before going to print. The cover art (which is spectacular – I’ve added a glimpse below) and full ordering details should be announced next week. This book has become a labour of love. It’s a fitting end to the AUTUMN series and I’m insanely proud of all 150,000+ words of it.
The UK hardcover being produced in conjunction with Gollancz has been delayed. Sincere apologies. I’ll provide a further update as soon as I know more.
The book’s finished, but we’re still discussing what to do with it. More news as soon as I have it.
We’ve a meeting arranged for next week to get ISOLATION moving towards the screen, and an update will follow in due course.
Watch this space for some cracking summer events in Coventry, Cardiff and Avilés, Spain which will be announced next week.
There’s a big black hole on this site – nothing posted for the last ten days. Emails have gone unanswered, updates on Twitter and Facebook have been sparse. There’s no secret as to why – I’ve been writing. More precisely, I’ve been finishing a book. I thought it would be interesting to celebrate by posting a few thoughts.
My overriding feeling when I finish a novel is sheer, unadulterated terror. The new book – 17 DAYS – isn’t even a horror story, so how can that be? Let me try and put it into context.
I first had the germ of the idea which became 17 DAYS in 1995. I actually wrote a novel with the same central premise (which has subsequently been consigned to the vaults because it was bloody awful – I have two such ‘hidden’ novels: only one paper copy of each remains, and I’m not telling anyone where they are…). I tried again in the early 2000’s. The story was called MARK THANE back then, and I began to serialise it online before aborting it a). because AUTUMN exploded and, most importantly, b). because what I was writing wasn’t good enough.
Fast forward to 2010. I sat down for a meeting with my agent to discuss future plans and outlined several novels I wanted to write. He got excited about MARK THANE (as I was still calling it). Another year and a half of planning and a change of title and I was just about ready to start writing. I began writing this version of the story in February 2012, and finally finished it almost exactly a year later. Twelve months. Many, many versions. Almost half a million words written in total throughout all drafts etc.
So why the terror?
I’ve invested a huge amount of time, effort and energy into 17 DAYS. It’s different in many respects from the novels I’ve written previously – slightly dystopian, but less horrific and a little more mainstream, perhaps. Until I emailed the manuscript earlier this week, no one had read a word but me. So, like most other writers in a similar position, I guess, all the doubts are now starting to creep in. Is the damn thing any good? Will anybody want to read it? Have I got things totally wrong and am I in danger of disappearing up my own backside? Should I have stuck to horror? Should I go back to the manuscript and write in a zombie sub-plot (joke). The answers to these questions will start presenting themselves shortly, but the wait is agonizing. Sheer, unadulterated terror.
But I remain positive, contrary to what you might think reading this post! I console myself with a few facts. First, if the story wasn’t worth telling , would I really have kept coming back to it time and again over the last eighteen years? Second, it’s definitely the right time to tell the story – the Internet, Occupy, Anonymous, social unrest, austerity riots… all these things have helped fill the blanks which were there before. And third, everyone I’ve talked to about the story has had pretty much the exact same reaction. I’ll not tell you what that reaction was. Instead, I’ll leave you with the briefest of blurbs:
“Mark Thane is thirty-one. He’s doing very well for himself, all things considered. He has a nice house, a decent job, and is getting married next summer. On the face of it, everything looks perfect.
Mark’s involved in a tragic accident, and though he walks away largely unscathed, it’s discovered that he’s suffering from Hemsayles Syndrome, a rare condition which is fatal in ninety-five per cent of detected cases. There’s no possibility of any cure. His only option is to allow nature to take its course. But in a cruel twist, his doctors are able to calculate how long he has left.
Mark Thane will die in seventeen days time. Probably.
How do you come to terms with knowing exactly when you’ll die? In Mark’s case, he doesn’t. He cracks under the pressure, and his world falls apart. When he looks for support, he doesn’t get it. When he asks for help, no one’s listening.
On the verge of doing something stupid, he’s pulled back from the brink by a foul-mouthed, antagonistic girl he meets in a bar he shouldn’t have been drinking in. When he returns home – drunk, alone and desperate – he vents his frustrations into his webcam and uploads the results to YouTube. When Mark wakes up next morning, he’s gone viral. Within days it seems the world is hanging on his every word.
And in what’s left of the seventeen days he’s been given, Mark Thane will learn more than he managed in the previous thirty-one years.
This nobody from nowhere is on the verge of changing everything.”
I’ve mentioned a few times recently that the novel I’m currently working on is called 17 DAYS. All things being equal, I’m hoping to have the writing finished by this time tomorrow. Another week or so of final edits and tidying up etc., and the book should be with my agent by the second week in February.
When it’s all done and dusted, I’ll tell you more about it. In the meantime, I’m after a little help.
When you learn more about the book, you’ll see that the story lends itself to a very specific type of promotion. Whether it’s to sell the book to publishers or to support the eventual release of the novel itself, I want to get a head-start on that promotional aspect now. I’m looking for someone to front a very lo-fi video – possibly a series of videos – recreating scenes from the novel. I need someone who can act, but at the same time act natural. As is usual for my books, our hero is a very ordinary chap!
So, if you’re male, British, aged between 27 and 35, and you’re interested in getting involved, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you have more details. Thanks in advance.