February 20, 2012

Back to the Beginning

I was talking to a book club in Antonia’s Bookshop in Trim (the closest thing my family has to a local bookshop) the other day, where they’d asked me to come in and talk about ‘The Harvest Tide Project’, which they’d just read. You might think this would be an easy gig, but the truth is, it had been years since I’d read the book, and despite all the time I spent working on it, there was a lot I just couldn’t remember about it.

‘The Harvest Tide Project’ was the first book I ever wrote, even though it was actually the fourth to be published. It was released over seven years ago, and completed a good two or three years before that. And it’s pretty packed with twists, turns and details I just couldn’t recall off the top of my head. So I had to go back and read it again, in order not to look like a complete eejit who didn’t know basic stuff about his own book.

A lot of people assume that if you write a book, every detail came out of your head, so you must be able to remember every detail. Not so, unfortunately. Twenty-one books later, my head’s filled with other stuff.

It was interesting to see how much my writing has changed – the things I did then, but wouldn’t do now. And yet I wouldn’t go back and change that text, given the chance. I was pretty impressed with how well I’d done with my first book (excuse my brief wallowing in egotism); there are some fairly imaginative leaps, but also some pretty complex sentences there that I’d hesitate to put in now, for fear of losing weaker readers. In fact, it’s a strange experience, rediscovering one of your own books.

With ‘Harvest Tide’ and its sequel, ‘Under Fragile Stone’, I went all out in creating a world from scratch, packing the stories with all sorts of ideas, adding some stuff in just for the sheer fun of it. Am I a better writer now? I’m definitely more disciplined, more deliberate about my effect on the reader now, more conscious  of my audience.

But are my later books any better? I don’t know – that’s how I wrote back then and I don’t think I’d change a word now, if only because I believe you can’t dwell on a book once it’s done and out of your head. Better to move on and concentrate on the next one. It’s always been the plan to go back to the Archisans’ world some day – I’d originally planned five or six books – but it’s not on the cards just yet. It would be interesting to see how I’d write one of those books now. Some day, though, when the time is right.

February 14, 2012

Phone Book

Have you ever wondered about the people who sell you technology? Do you think that, maybe, they have no idea what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t work in the technology industry? Do you think that many instruction manuals are anything but user-friendly? That maybe, the person writing them might not be fully fluent in English (or whatever language you’re reading in)? Have you ever wondered about the gombeens who run the service connecting you to the internet? You know, the ones who tell you that, if you have a problem, you should look for the solution on their website?

This is the kind of instruction manual you’d really like to get with your new phone, and a fantastic way of using a real book to make a gadget more accessible. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s just a project done on spec at the moment, and it’s not something that could be rolled out for every high-tech device (there’s the huge waste of paper, for a start). But I think it would make a great ‘special edition’ present for someone who usually struggles with new technology (more than normal, I mean). Enjoy.

February 7, 2012

The New Arrival

I have to admit; even after twenty-one books, I still get excited seeing my latest one fresh off the presses. I get a box of author copies when the production run’s done and they’re all being packed up for distribution, but I normally get a couple as soon as my editor can send me them, maybe one or two weeks ahead of the ‘official’ ones.

It may seem odd, but it’s not the text I have a look at first in a book – it’s the illustrations. In this case, there are just the cover and the chapter icons, but I examine each one in turn to make sure they’ve come out okay. Before I can really enjoy the new arrival, there’s a short period of suspense as I search for flaws. It’s rare that I find any worth mentioning – I have the good fortune to work with people with a thorough knowledge of their business.

There were a few last minute changes before we went to print: the blurb got shortened down, I added a couple of bits to the background piece at the end, as well as a scatter of other minor alterations.

In a way, I’ll stop thinking much about ‘Merciless Reason’, as I do with all my books once they’re done. I’m about to start editing the next one, and I’m getting on with some other sideline projects, so that’s what’s going to occupy my mind for the next while. But I’ll still pick this up from time to time over the next few weeks. It still feels good.

Thanks to Lauren, Sue, James and everyone at Random for all their work.

Here’s the new, shortened blurb:

‘There’s no escaping this family. I’d have an easier time shaking the plague.’

It has been three years since Nate left Ireland, and his ruthless, feared family, behind. But the Wildensterns are not finished with him. When he discovers that his treacherous cousin is still alive, he is drawn back into their world of plotting, betrayal and murder.

At home, Daisy and Tatiana are among the few who are trying to stem the damage the Wildensterns are doing. The family has become even more hated by the people it treads upon in its thirst for power.

One thing is for certain – the Wildensterns are back. Violence will ensue.

February 3, 2012

Strangled Silence Down Under

I was sent these pictures by professional book-dude Tom Donegan, showing a copy of ‘Strangled Silence’ in a bookshop in Australia. This was, I’m sure, after he had kindly put it facing out – another recruit to my team dedicated to interfering with bookshop shelves. Tom had just returned from Sydney, where he had a fine time dawdling, dossing, and mooching through their impressive collection of bookshop cafes (he has a tough life altogether).

There are pluses and minuses about working with any type of publisher – and there are definitely some advantages to being published by a small but dedicated outfit. However, having your books appear on shelves on the other side of the world, without signing additional foreign rights, is one of the characteristics of being distributed by an international publisher like Random House. While my agent sells individual language rights, RHCB hold the English language rights for almost everywhere except North America . . . including, of course, Australia.

Basically, if I want to be published in places like Germany, Russia or . . . I don’t know, Namibia . . . in their own languages, I have to find a publisher in that country. But Random House hold the rights for my novels published in English, in well over a hundred countries around the world, from Jordan to Jamaica, France to the Falkland Islands.

Now, just because they can distribute them like that, doesn’t mean they do – although I think it’s standard operating procedure to release them in Australia and New Zealand. When I get my statements every year, there is very little on them to tell me where in the world my books are being sold. Also, I have no idea what kind of marketing these books get out there (seeing as I do most of the marketing for my books here and in the UK, and I don’t spend my time travelling the globe). Still, it is gratifying to know they’re getting out and seeing the world.

And seeing as, unlike half of the Irish people my age, I never did the ‘Year in Australia’, it’s nice to see my books are doing it for me, in their own small way. Thanks for the pictures, Tom.