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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Suddenly, there’s an uncluttered landscape around me – and it really is the strangest feeling.

Looking across the Irish Sea from northwest Anglesey
I’ve lived in Durham for seven years now (give or take a few weeks), and I don’t think there’s been a moment when I haven’t had my mind on at least one major project, occasionally two or three. I think I have written a dozen books in that time. It may be thirteen. So going on a short holiday to North Wales with absolutely nothing to worry about felt very odd indeed. 

The brewery history awaits final orders from the publishers, who are threatening to have it out for Christmas. I think that would be a good idea, given that it’s all about beer and pubs – perfect for Dad’s stocking. Whether they manage to produce it on time is another matter entirely. Whatever happens, all I have to do is proof-read the final edit, and maybe write a cover blurb.

The bounty hunter manuscript is with the man himself, and has been for a week or two. He took it to Poland - light entertainment on a hunting trip. Wild boar, if you’re asking. And the word is that, having read it on the way out, he likes it. In fact, he liked it all the better for reading it again on the way back. Just a few factual errors to correct, the usual name changes, and we can start looking for a publisher.

And finally… This requires a roll on the drums. Back in 2015 I spent three months in Taos, and took with me a work in progress. Well, sort of: I started writing what was then called Son of a Gun in 1993, completed it a year later, and in 1994 was assured by an editor at Little Brown that it would be published. Then they pulled the plug. Over the next twenty-one years (yes, twenty-one: it does sound rather a long time, doesn’t it?) I sent out sample chapters and synopses, sporadically, each time revising and re-thinking. Occasional publishers and agents requested to see the full manuscript. The novel meant a lot to me. I would guess that it went out in some form or other around 50 times. Deep down I’d known for a long time that I wanted to give it a radical overhaul, and the three-month residency in New Mexico was the opportunity I was looking for. I was really pleased with the changes I made there, and sent it out to a few publishers at the end of last year. Finally, around March-April, I got a positive response. And some months later, after some to-ing and fro-ing (and my agreeing to cut 11,000 words, which I managed in a single thirteen-hour sitting) I signed a contract. The publisher is a young business, and offers remarkably favourable terms to authors. More in due course, but meanwhile I face another difficult decision: whether to celebrate or just sit back with my feet up.

A photographic impression of my current mental landscape.

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