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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My new book hits the shops – and I learn a few lessons about writing fiction.

My latest book was published yesterday. Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire is a handsome collection of photographs displaying some of the many scenes that form the backdrop to the Now Then, Lad series. Mike himself was at the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham as part of the launch, and now goes on the road to promote what Countryside Publications expect to be a Christmas hit. Let’s hope it is. At £9.99 it’s a hard-cover bargain.

To tell the truth, I hardly had time to note the event. I am under the kind of pressure that all authors crave. While I’ve been beavering away on the sci-fi project – I’m now well past 40,000 words and it is, finally, gathering a head  of steam – a certain contract has been gathering dust on my desk. That’s for the next book I have to write with my partner-in-crime, the story of his childhood in rural North Yorkshire. Yesterday I amended the delivery date on that and signed it. It seems I will be pretty much a fixture at this desk until the end of April.

I am learning a huge amount from concocting this fiction set in the world of brain-computer interfaces. I am learning that if you develop a group of characters and set them loose in the world, interesting things happen. They will surprise you. I’ve already had to give one a gender-change. Another has suddenly shed twenty years and become an innocent abroad (‘OMG, How the hell did I get mixed up with these gun-toting anarchists?’). A third has been merged with another character for the sake of credibility/convenience. And yesterday I decided it was time I killed off one of the minor players. Let me tell you, she had it coming. Okay, so it was I who put the gun in her hand and had her attempt to kill the protagonist, but I had no choice. I needed to  re-unite him with his wife, who, he has just discovered, is having an affair with one of the anarchists. The killing had another benefit: it afforded one of the crazies the opportunity to rack up a few credits for coming to the main man’s rescue. Now he sees that if you hire a man of action, that’s what you get: action.

By the time I packed up yesterday I had the whole cast scuttling about in the woods of southern New Mexico looking for their getaway vehicle in a cloud of smoke. They’d just attacked the labs, where the evil scientists were doing terrible things to various guinea-pigs. And for good measure I had a stray bullet whack into the protagonist’s wife. Well you can’t have an assault with deadly weapons, and a grenade-launcher, without somebody getting hurt, can you now? It’s only a flesh wound, but it’ll give the heroes a problem. And that’s the most valuable thing I learned as a TV soap writer: whenever things seem to be going smoothly you wade in there and mess things up. Goes against my nature as a tidy-minded individual, but hey ho. Needs must.

This is something of a catch-up, so I must mention the events of last Saturday when York City, still looking for a second win of the season, took on Portsmouth FC. Three years ago Portsmouth were playing Chelsea in the Cup Final. A year or two before that they won the Final, and ended up playing the likes of A C Milan in the Europa League. However, massive over-spending, and the suspect dealings of some criminally inclined foreign owners destroyed their financial base and saw three rapid relegations, aided by punitive points deductions. So here they are in the fourth tier of English football, with a large fan-base, 1300 of whom made the 500-mile round trip to Bootham Crescent, where they watched a revitalised York rip them apart, 4-2. Yesss!!!! 4-2!!! I can’t remember the last time we so comprehensively destroyed the opposition. Most likely it was the game v Wimbledon three years ago when we sprinted to a 4-0 lead in 28 minutes. Deep satisfaction. My joy was only tempered by having to offer condolences to my friend the poet Jules Smith, who travelled over from Hull to witness the debacle. He was so stunned that he even refused my offer of a post-match pint. 

Okay, back to the woods. I need to see how badly hurt that gal is. But don’t worry. She’ll live.

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