Pages

Follow by Email

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Debut Novelist - at 67¾.

My 25th book - and first novel, out now.

To the browser in the bookstore it's probably just another novel, but to me it’s freighted with significance – and I reveal it with no small amount of pride. After two dozen non-fiction books over the past twenty-five years, I am now a debut novelist. Aged 67¾.

I started writing this in 1991, when I was a postgraduate student at the University of East Anglia. I’d done my M.A. and the late Malcolm Bradbury invited me to embark on a doctoral course with a view to presenting a novel as my thesis. The impetus for the work I planned came from a deep love of the landscape, people and culture of the American West, and stories that had gripped me from childhood. However, I allowed myself to be persuaded that it needed an intellectual or academic bent. I really thought that that was what was required. Somewhere along the way, after I’d written the first forty pages or so, I was ambushed by two academics who had nothing to do with Creative Writing – rather History and Literature. In a formal interview, they trashed my work-in-progress. Said it was too personal. Badly bruised and very angry, I abandoned it.

Several months later, when I’d recovered my senses, I sat down and started on the novel that I really wanted to write – about my early enchantment with the mythic West and my later, first-hand knowledge of the land that gave birth to that myth. I wrote with no constraints on a manual typewriter of some vintage, sitting at my dining-room table after the kids had gone to bed. The result, which I completed in 1993 or 4, was well received by a major publisher, then ditched quite late on in the progress towards formal acceptance. Over the following twenty-some years I occasionally fiddled with it, sent out sample chapters from time to time, and, despite constant rejection, never gave up on it. I would guess I made between 60 and 100 overtures to publishers and agents during that time.

In 2015 I had the good fortune to be granted a three-month fellowship at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. I grasped the opportunity to take the novel apart and re-write it, radically, with - I admit it now - a more mature understanding of my subjects and characters. Within six weeks I had ripped out 40,000 words and re-written the whole thing. My readers and advisers confirmed my feelings that, at last, it was working. Less than a year after I'd completed it, Paula Comley at Ouen Press took it on. I hope you enjoy it.

You can find the book on amazon (amzn.to/2otYqek) at £9.99. 
For U.S. readers, go to amzn.to/2nWr3Q2