If you talk to any writer, they will tell you that their heads are, generally speaking, pretty fucked up. Not in the sense that they/we have some kind of mental issue (well, not all of us), but in the sense that our brains are constantly filtering random thoughts and ideas. Be they for books, characters or even simple scenes.
This is especially true of those writers who tackle contemporary issues because if we have any intention of injecting reality into our work it is vital to actually get out there and experience a bit of it. In my case, as someone who tends to feature football in most of my work, watching games really is research (which is why my local and most fabulous Watford FC supporting tax officer always tells me to deduct it against my tax!). It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Sometimes of course, an idea will fly in and fly out, other times it’ll hang about for a bit and then be forgotten whilst a few will eventually find their way into a project. But there are others which, by virtue of the fact that they are just too good to ignore, simply wedge themselves into my consciousness like some kind of mental post-it note. And if an idea can survive my Alzheimer like memory, it generally means it is worth taking notice of.
I have a few of those hanging around and hopefully, most will see the light of day at some point in the near future. Indeed one in particular already has me buzzing even though I have two books to write before I can even think about tackling it. And much as I’d like to tell you what it is, I can’t. Or rather I won’t.
Because you see in my warped world, ideas are currency. They are after all, the very basis of my creative output and so I need to not only nurture, but protect them!
I mention this now because my new book, a comedy entitled Wings of a Sparrow, is the result of such a process because it stems from an idea I first had over six years ago. I actually pitched it to my publishers at the time and even though they turned it down, I knew it was a great idea which is why I kept tinkering with it. Now, thanks to the joys of self-publishing, it will very shortly see the light of day. Hopefully as soon as the first week in December.
Full details of what will be my fifteenth book (how did that happen??) can be found on its dedicated website but I have to say that I am genuinely excited about this one, more so in fact than I have been about a project for a long time. It just feels…. well, right, although ultimately of course, that will be for you lot to decide!
And now, having finished Wings, I am already onto the next one which is, as promised, the sequel to Top Dog, the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy.
The plot-line I’ve developed is quite possibly the best I’ve ever come up with and as I’ve been fleshing this out, I’ve been buzzing with ideas including some which will involve characters from the previous books. Indeed, I am almost certain that I’ll be writing this in a way which means it will be quite difficult to read it without having read the previous two. To me, and to others I’ve discussed it with, given the nature of the central character and the world he inhabits, that makes perfect sense but if you have any thoughts, please let me know.
Two things I am certain of are the title and the fact that it will be released as an eBook initially, all being well around late spring.
But in the meantime, I have the release of Wings of a Sparrow to deal with and that should hit the online stores in the first week of December. Test-reads have been universally positive and hopefully, given the subject matter (and the fact that there is no mention of hooliganism!) it should attract some decent press.
As ever… watch this space!!!
I know I seem to say this every month but thanks to everyone who continues to keep The Crew at number one on the free soccer book download charts of both Amazon and iTunes.
That’s into 15 straight months now which is some kind of achievement and something I am incredibly proud of. Top Dog also continues to sell really well (it’s currently at #2) so here’s hoping the new book does just as well.
As some of you will know, the Edinburgh Literary Festival has just been and gone.
Regarded as possibly the foremost festival on the publishing calendar, it brings together authors and ‘thinkers’ from across the globe and over a week long period, stages all kinds of events ranging from impassioned debates to creative workshops.
Now I’ve never actually been to Edinburgh, or any other literary festival for that matter, but I mention it here for a very specific reason. You see a while back, I stumbled across a website which provided a guide to getting published. It was written by someone who described themselves as a ‘literary coach’ and was quite informative but actually contained little or nothing that any published author could have provided free of charge.
However, what did interest me was a list of services provided for potential authors and a range of prices charged for those services. It wasn’t cheap but I guess if you are desperate to get into print, you will do whatever it takes, or costs.
Anyway, seeing these prices, I researched said ‘tutor’ and discovered to my astonishment that they had a backlist of… well I hesitate to call it a list at all. Let’s just say it was less than five…a lot less. From what I can gather, their sales haven’t exactly set the world on fire either.
Initially bemused at how someone was getting away with earning between £25 and £50 an hour teaching about writing when they seemingly have so little actual experience of it, further research uncovered the fact that this person is a regular at festivals, including Edinburgh, where they are given a platform to inform the public about the process of getting oneself into print for the first time. At which point I shook my head and went back to doing something more constructive. I’ve been around publishing long enough to know how it all works. If your face fits…
Now I don’t say this through any sense of hurt or indignation, but it is a fact that in spite of having written 15 books, shifted many hundreds of thousands of copies around the world and as the person widely regarded (wrongly in my opinion) as the father of the genre known as ‘hoolie-lit’ I have only ever been invited to two literary events in the UK and one of those I had to get myself invited to. The other had been organised by a group of disgruntled authors keen to complain about the appalling PR provided by our publisher. Aside from that, with the exception of the odd writing group, I have never been asked to talk about anything relating to my experiences of publishing let alone give my opinions on either the industry or writing generally.
I used to ponder the reasons for this quite a lot and believed that much of it stemmed from my reluctance to play the ‘networking’ game. For just like the TV and film industry, publishing tends to be more about who you know rather than what you can actually do.
However, the real reason was explained to me in extremely blunt terms by a very famous and very working class Cockney female author who told me at the aforementioned moan-a-thon, and I quote; ‘look at all these fucking snobs. I feel like I should be walking round with a tray of drinks’.
Yes, that’s right, snobbery runs through the literary world like a cancer and in terms of a clique, it makes the freemasons look like a youth club.
To be honest, I have always kind of understood why they might be reluctant to invite someone like me in. After all, I write primarily about blokey things and to those who don’t know me, I probably appear as if I can’t string two coherent sentences together. I’m also prone, as you may have gathered, to saying things as I see them which doesn’t always go down well.
However, in recent years I have begun to consider another possibility. One that might not actually be as personal as I always suspected.
You see I write for a particular market and that market is me and people like me. In other words, working class lads. This, to me, is what ‘lad-lit’ is all about yet for whatever reason, it is a genre which even as a concept, the publishing world have never fully seemed to grasp properly. A simple truth underlined by the fact that it often refers to Nick Hornby as The King of Lad-Lit.
Now I have nothing against Nick Hornby who is after all, an awesome writer. However, I’ve always struggled with the notion that his output is targeted at the same market as the one I inhabit. Yes, we’ve all read Fever Pitch but no one I know has read Funny Girl or Juliet, Naked or for that matter, would ever want to.
The question of course, is why does the publishing world seem so desperate to steer itself as far away from the lad market as is possible? After all, with the economy as it is these days you’d have thought that they’d have looked at the success of ‘chick-lit’ and given more serious thought to how they could fully service the other 50% of the population.
Sadly, if they are looking at all, the only answer they seem to have come up with is to pump out ever more pallet loads of sports or gangster related autobiographies. Great if you like that kind of thing but not so great if like me, you regard 90% of sportsmen and gangsters as relatively uninteresting. However, the fact that they cannot or will not look beyond these increasingly bland and repetitive genres is, in my opinion, entirely down to anti-male snobbery.
You may laugh at this but it’s something I have heard referred to many times over the years and it stems from an unspoken belief within the publishing world that ‘blokes don’t do books’. The truth however, as ‘hoolie-lit’ conclusively proved, is that they do.
Quite why this incredibly patronising view of a section of male readers continues to impact on the industry escapes me but from where I sit, there is a lot to be said for the idea that publishing is still a somewhat elitist world. Therefore the last thing it wants or needs is to become infested with working class oik novelists who, perish the thought, might actually manage to become popular. I know that’s a contentious accusation but think about this; can you imagine a ‘chick-lit’ author with 15 titles and a three quarters of a million sales to her name failing to attract invitations to literary events? No, I can’t either.
If true, it is a tragedy. Not least because there are some great male authors out there who, if given the chance, could actually forge a decent career for themselves by providing some fabulous and inventive popular fiction for male readers. OK, they might not win any Booker Prizes, but that’s not what it’s about at all.
You see somewhere along the line those individuals who make editorial decisions seem to have forgotten one fundamental and inescapable fact and it is this: The single most important person in the publishing industry is the reader. Keep them happy and you do the one thing that everyone in the industry is desperate to do, you make money. And if the phenomenon of hoolie-lit proved one thing, it’s that there is money to be made. Lots of money.
You just have to look under the right rock. Or rather, you have to want to look.
If you’ve ever read any of my books, you’ll know that I have very strong views on the issue of fan involvement in football and in particular the failure of the various fan groups to secure any significant presence at club level. And so, with Liverpool FC having bowed to pressure from its supporters and scrapped the idea of a £77 ticket, I thought it might be a good idea to publish an extract from my book, Barmy Army which outlines an idea which continues to excite people.
The fact it was first published 16 years ago yet is as relevant now as it was back then is a shameful reflection not just on the sport we follow, but on ourselves. For the professional game without us is nothing. We know that, they know that.
So why do we continue to let them take the piss? Read on.
The difficulty here is how you involve the rank-and- file fans in the first place. For in the current climate, most football supporters feel a greater sense of alienation than ever before. Very few of us have any kind of coherent representation at our clubs and none of us have a voice at either the FA or within government, despite the fact that the game is totally reliant on us for its very survival.
We cannot rely on either the clubs or the FA to change their position with regard to customer relations of their own accord, and therefore pressure must be put on them to do so. We have two very powerful weapons at our disposal, but one of them we will never use and the other, for the moment at least, we cannot.
The first thing we could do is to hit the clubs where it hurts and boycott games. We could do that, but we never will. Like all addicts, we need our fix and to miss out on that, even on a point of principle, doesn’t bear thinking about. The alternative to boycotting the games altogether is to boycott the catering or even to get ourselves organised and follow the lead of the various Ultra groups in Italy, which we discussed earlier. That would send a clear message to the clubs that we were unhappy. If it went on for long enough, they might even be forced into action to resolve it – ‘might’ being the operative word. For football is a stubborn beast and even if a club’s supporters were able to organise themselves, there is no guarantee that the directors would listen. Indeed, judging by some of the examples we have seen in recent years, at the first sign of supporter solidarity the average board simply digs in and does nothing.
So if we are to force action, then it must be done in a way which the clubs are unable to ignore. And in this country, every football fan over the age of 18 has something which those in authority have to take notice of. It’s called a vote.
A few years ago, I suggested the formation of a single issue political lobby group called the Football Party. Initially, the suggestion was that people would stand for their local council to give fans a say in issues that directly affected their local club. It was an approach that proved astonishingly successful in 1990 when supporters of Charlton Athletic FC formed The Valley Party in an ultimately successful campaign to get the club back to their spiritual home.
Such was the response, it quickly became apparent that many supporters believed that this local angle was an idea worth developing. But many people wrote to me and said we had to think big and aim higher. The more I thought about that, the more plausible the whole thing sounded. What finally convinced me that the concept of a national Football Party was a sound one was when I realised that the average local election generates a turnout of less that 40 per cent and that while over 12 million people voted for the Tories in the 1992 general election, approximately 25 million watched the England v Germany semi-final in Italia ’90. What this proved to me once and for all was that if you went canvassing around every pub, club, house and factory, and told the electorate that you were standing to give them a say within the football world, there’d undoubtedly be good support, and as soon as the established parties saw there were votes in it, their policies and actions would change so as to give football a kick up the arse.
As a result, I sat down and wrote out a manifesto, one aimed not just at local councils but also at general and European elections. It included four main points. First, the formation of an independent, credible and properly funded body to represent the views and opinions of football supporters from every level of the game; second, the appointment of supporters’ representatives to the committees of both the Football Association and the Football Trust; third, the appointment of an elected supporters’ representative to the board of every professional football club; and finally, the appointment of an ombudsman or regulator to oversee the activities of the Football Association, the Football Trust, the Premier League and its members, the Football League and its members and supporters’ groups.
In August 1998, when it was first released to the press and various supporters’ groups, the response was amazing. Yet sadly, the people I wanted to react, the football authorities and the government, paid it little heed. Undaunted, I carried on. More support poured in and the manifesto began to appear all over the Internet. I had enquiries about it from all over Europe and as far afield as Australia. It had certainly captured the imagination of supporters. However, the campaign eventually began to take its toll on me, both in terms of time and finances and I was forced to put it onto the back burner. But the idea is still very much alive and the very fact that so many people continue to respond to it proves that it is sound. It sure would rock the boat were it ever to come off.
The mere idea that football fans throughout the country could even consider voting for a fat git like me proves how desperate they are to be involved in the game they love. Every supporter has a role to play in the future of the game, and that doesn’t just apply to the hooligan issue but to every single aspect of football. Every major political party recognises that fact – which is, after all, why Tony Blair does so many stupid photo-calls – but still they do nothing about it. That is not good enough. If football will not provide us with a properly funded platform through which we can be heard and demand answers, then the government must make sure they do. And if they don’t, that’s when we should use our vote, because that is the one thing all politicians are truly scared of. All we need to do is to get organised; but how we actually do that is anyone’s guess.
Yet it has to happen. For only by wielding the immense power we as football fans have at our disposal will we ever see an end to the problems facing football, from the hooliganism issue and the asset-stripping to the financial incompetence, greed and sheer hypocrisy of those who supposedly run our game on our behalf. For too long now they have got away with shafting us. They have placed us in danger, sold our very game from under our feet and in far too many cases to note here, have walked away with bank accounts bursting at the seams with money that came out of our pockets. It’s not right and the time has come to do something about it.
If you want to read more on this, Barmy Army is available to download via this link. There is also more on the subject of football protest movement in my book, Rebellion which is available here.
Two additional plugs, I’m currently giving away ebooks versions two of my best-selling books The Crew and Everywhere We Go. Further details can be found by clicking on the links or here Free Books where you will also find details of all my other publications.
Aside from all that, work continues apace on developing the film version ofWings of a Sparrowand I’m also pushing forward with another film which for now, must remain a secret for reasons which will hopefully become clear in the fullness of time!
Ever since I have been writing, two things have been regularly thrown in my direction.
The first is that at some point all writers get writers block, the second is that a blank page is a scary thing.
I’ve written about writers block numerous times before so I won’t go over that again (however, to paraphrase it for any newbies, in essence I believe it’s a myth designed to excuse one of any number of basic failings) but the issue of the blank page is something I’ve rarely discussed. As I sit here facing a new one today, now seems as good a time as any.
Now, however unlikely it might be, all writers have to believe that somewhere deep inside us is the ability to pen a booker prize winning novel, a ‘Harry Potter’ style literary phenomenon or an Oscar winning screenplay.
The blank page signifies what is possibly the beginning of the journey toward the creation of that very book or script and like the start of any journey, there are two ways of looking at it. You can either be pessimistic or optimistic. Which one you choose, or rather which one chooses you, is wholly dependent on the type of person you are.
The pessimist of course, will suspect that it is highly likely that within a first few pages, they will realise that this new project won’t be the big break they are dreaming of and instead, even as they sit there hammering away, they are going to be accompanied by that awful sense of hope evaporating.
And as hope rolls away, it will be replaced by the standard writers fears of exposure, of failure, of making yourself look stupid and possibly worst of all, of being boring. Who on earth would want to risk any of that let alone willingly put themselves through it?
Yes, all of that and more lurks on that single A4 page or a blank screen filled with nothing but white. Having written 15 books and numerous screenplays, I can state that with authority.
Thankfully, these days I tend to be a bit more confident and far from fearing the blank page, I love it! And for one very specific reason: it signifies power. Power to create anything I want to create be it non-fiction, fiction, thriller, comedy, male, female, sex, crime, football… anything.
A blank page gives me freedom to develop characters from my own imagination and make them do whatever I want them to do be it good, bad or even evil. I can make them love, hate or even kill them off, horribly if I want. And all of that comes from nothing other than my imagination. That’s what I call power! Real power!
That, in essence, is exactly what I’m facing at the moment. For today I start work on a new novel based on a recently completed screenplay.
It’s very different from my previous novels in that it’s about the military but in many ways, that makes it even more exciting as I can call on my own experiences in uniform. However, if the novel proves half as enjoyable to write as the movie version was, it’s going to be brilliant fun and since I write primarily for me, that’s all that matters.
Blank page… don’t be frightened of it, love it. It’s everything any writer could ever want.
Despite being over 14 years old, The Crew and Top Dog continue to sell well with an audio version of Top Dog now available to download via here!
Wings of a Sparrow also continues to do well in both paperback and eBook formats and I’m hoping that like the movie version of Top Dog, this will also make the leap to the screen at some point very soon.
All being well, I’ll also be able to pass on news of another movie project in the very near future.
screenwriter, screenwriting, author, self-publishing, green street, top dog, british film, gangsters, the krays, hooligans, collymore, troll, trolling
I’m not usually one for taking part in online debates about writing, mostly because I’m not that clever. However, this week I’ve been involved in a fascinating discussion with a group of writers on the use of gratuitous violence in both books and film. Or to be more specific, the duty of the writer in the way they portray it.
I won’t go too deeply into the way it unfolded other than to say it veered from one extreme to the other and back again at least more than once. But whilst it was extremely interesting to learn how others perceive their creative responsibilities, little or nothing was said which made me change the way I think about mine. And mine, as I see them, are relatively simple. Indeed, they can be encapsulated in one single sentence. For when it comes to anything fictional, my job is to tell a decent story as honesty and realistically as I can.
This is underpinned by something I have said many times and that is the fact that the most important person in publishing is the reader. And when you write the kind of things I do for the kind of people I primarily write them for (lads), then my sole duty is to give them something which they can not only recognise but hopefully, put themselves into the centre of.
In the case of hooliganism, that means street fighting and anyone who has ever been involved in a row at football knows that it isn’t Queensbury Rules Boxing or Tae Kwon Do, it’s short periods of scruffy, disjointed mayhem. It’s still violence, but it’s real violence as opposed to the stylised fighting we see in too many films and computer games and whilst for some it’s little short of terrifying, for others it’s bordering on hilarious.
That’s how I have to write it because that’s how it is. Anything else would be a betrayal and I’d lose my readers in a heartbeat.
Quite rightly too.
The next few weeks (maybe even days) will see a couple of announcements on the movie front. The first will almost certainly be the name of the director signed to ‘We Still Kill The Old Way’ and the second will be the release date for ‘Top Dog’.
Assuming all goes to plan, it’s going to be an exciting few months on both fronts.
There have also been a couple of developments on the book side of things the most important of which is that the novel I’ve been working on for the last few months has been scrapped.
I won’t say much about the subject matter for now and normally I’d advise any writer to finish everything they start working on because you never know if it will click into place and come right. However, in this instance, I was happy to go against my own advice purely because I just wasn’t enjoying writing it and with two other books lined up, I was keen to get stuck into one of those which is exactly what I’ve done.
Indeed, the book I’m working on now is actually the one I should have written last year because it’s the one that genuinely excites me.
I was asked this morning how I come up with names for my characters and since I haven’t blogged for a while I thought it might be an idea to kill two birds with one stone by writing something about the process and how I go about it.
It is important to stress however, that this is how I do it. As I’ve written before, I have never studied the craft of writing and so have no idea if there is a standard ‘way’ or not. This works for me and that’s all I need to worry about.
Character development is actually one of the most fun parts of the writing process for me because it allows me the opportunity to play god. And given that it’s fairly certain that he and I will not be meeting in the afterlife as I’ll almost certainly be heading south, it’s an opportunity I tend to relish for all kinds of reasons. Revenge being just one.
Now, I know that in both Billy Evans and Billy Ellis I have created characters which have and will make return appearances but that’s a different blog altogether. This is about the first time they make an appearance in my psyche but be it a novel or a screenplay, initially it always starts with the same thing, the story. Be it tightly or loosely plotted, it is vital that you, as the writer, have some idea of the journey you’re going to take your creations on before you start putting them together. Once you have that, then you can start putting flesh on bones. It is however, important to understand that to all intents and purposes, your characters are, and must be, real people with real histories, personalities, flaws and fears. They have to be for reasons which should be obvious. And key to that is making them ‘real’ in every sense of the word.
For me, the first stage of that process is to give them a name, a face and a voice. The name is the easier of the three because all it has to do it fit the individual and the world you want them to inhabit. Can you imagine Billy Evans being called Tarquin Selby-Green? Of course not, it would never work. Billy is short, sharp, blokey and slightly cheeky so it was perfect for the main man in both The Crew and Billy’s Log.
I also wanted the christian names to be short and punchy. Evans was my former agents name and Billy Ellis rolls off the tongue. Simple as that. But in the past I’ve found names for my characters simply by scrolling through Facebook and finding something which I think fits. However, a name can be changed fairly easily, usually with a few clicks of a button, the face and the voice are far more important because as you spend more and more time with these imaginary people, they will fairly quickly come to haunt your consciousness.
When a character first appears in your head, he or she will inevitably have a certain look and Billy Ellis was no exception. From day one he was medium height, stocky, dark haired and had a cheeky face. In essence, like any one of a hundred lads I know. I also knew immediately what I wanted him to sound like and so once I had the plot tied down, I went looking for him.
Oh yes, every character in everything I’ve ever written is based on a real person. In the case of Billy Evans, it was a mate. Now I won’t say who he is (he knows, but he is very different from Leo Gregory which is why I had so many initial problems when I began adapting the book for the screen) but I follow this same model for every character in everything I write. The reason being that if I ever find myself struggling, I can either ring up that person or YouTube them. Trust me, it’s amazing how quickly and easily a quick chat or a short video clip can free up the mind and spark something off.
Of course as work progresses the characters begin to take on lives of their own which is exactly as it should be but as a starting point, basing them on real people certainly works for me and in all honesty, that’s all I care about!
Work on Top Dog is all but complete now and having seen an initial edit, I have to say it’s looking brilliant. I’m not going to get all gushy about how amazing everyone looks and what a fabulous job Martin has done suffice to say, I could not have asked for better from anyone involved. I certainly can’t wait to see it on a big screen and whilst I have a rough idea of release dates I’m not going to pass them on as that isn’t down to me. However, as soon as I’m allowed to pass them on you’ll be amongst the first to know.
The new novel is also progressing well and should be released in a few months in both eBook and paperback formats. I can’t say anything about it as the moment but I think and indeed, hope, it’s going to cause something of a stir. Indeed, we believe that in some respects, it’s something of a first!
I read somewhere that the Christmas holidays are supposed to be a joyous time when we are all apparently meant to be… well, joyous.
Given that my twitter and Facebook timelines are awash with people moaning about everything from chaotic shops to equally chaotic weather, joy is something that is clearly in short supply today. It’s certainly absent here in Brimson towers although to be fair, I’ve never really been a fan of the festive season anyway so ironically, having something else to moan about is actually a bit of a positive.
However, in the interests of fair play, I have been giving the point of Christmas some thought over these last few days and whilst I appreciate the religious significance (even though I am not in any way shape or form religious) I am increasingly baffled as to why we bother with the rest of it.
After all, there can be few more stressful times than late December and let’s be honest, if you have kids or grand kids, the impact on the old bank balance can be catastrophic. More to the point, now that we can buy Brussell spouts pretty much all year round even the delights of Christmas dinner can be replicated whenever we feel like it.
Yes, I know there are all kinds of other reasons why the holidays are ‘special’ but when you sit down and think about it, most of them are bollocks. We’re all far more mobile these days so most family can get together relatively easily and even if we can’t, the internet allows communication in forms we couldn’t even imagine when I was a little ‘un. Equally, thanks to Netflix, Love Film and catch-up even the once highly anticipated post-pig out TV experience is largely a thing of the past.
OK, there’s the issue of time off work but when when you’re self-employed and work in an industry which tends to commence winding down at the beginning of December, the fact is that the whole month is lost which can be a pain in the arse.
The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that as a society we are being led not by the church, but by the supermarkets and the online stores and in these times of austerity, the question is, why do we do it?
Would we not be better of binning the annual spend-fest that Christmas has become and holding it once every four years instead?
It works for the World Cup, the Euro’s and even the Olympics and would it not be better all round to have something to really look forward to as opposed to dreading?
A couple of bits of news: the editing on Top Dog is well underway and a rough cut should be ready for viewing soon. I’m actually dreading this as it’s the first time I’ll have ever seen one of my books brought to life but I have every confidence in Martin Kemp so I’m sure my worries will be unfounded.
More to the point, once the rough cut has been viewed firm decisions will be taken regarding release dates etc, so as soon as I have news of those, I’ll pass them on.
I’ve also taken a positive decision about my next book. I don’t want to say too much at the moment as things may change but suffice to say that it’s an idea I’ve had ticking over in my head for a long time and in many ways, it will be the book that I’ve always wanted to write.
Finally, could I take this opportunity to wish everyone who reads this a very merry Christmas and if you could do me one favour over the coming week it’s to take the decision not to drink and drive.
2014 is going to be a massive year and I’d like to think you’ll all be around to share it.
The other day, whilst talking about the subject of publishing, I was referred to as an indie-author and then asked if I was comfortable with the label.
My response was seemingly the cause of some angst to my inquisitor who, from what I could gather, was hoping their question would illicit a rambling and angry diatribe about the evil empire that is traditional publishing. What they got instead, after about a milli-second of thought, was the response that not only do I not know, I don’t actually care.
However, since the question was asked I have actually given it some consideration and eventually I goggled the obvious question; what is an indie author? The response was extremely interesting with the top answer being provided by the Alliance of Independent Authors who define it thus:
You have self-published at least one book.
You recognise that ‘indie’ does not necessarily mean ‘self-publishing only’ and acknowledge that even the most indie-spirited self-publisher works in collaboration with other publishing professionals (editors, designers, distributors) to produce a good book and reach readers.
You are open to mutual beneficial partnerships, including trade publishing deals where appropriate for you, so long as the author’s status as creative director of the book is acknowledged.
You expect your status in the partnership to be reflected in contracts and terms, not just lip service.
You recognise that you are central to a revolutionary shift in publishing which is moving from seeing the author as resource (in the new parlance ‘content provider’) to respecting the author as creative director.
You are proud of your indie status, which you carry into all your ventures, negotiations and collaborations for your own benefit and to the benefit of all writers.
Now if that’s the standard definition, I’m actually none the wiser. After all, I’ve never self-published a book and I certainly don’t do anything for the benefit of other writers (why should I? They’ve never done much for me!) so that pegs me firmly in the NOT camp. However, I most certainly do involve other people in my work and since without me, there will be no more Dougie Brimson books, it’s fairly obvious that I am both the creative director and very much my own boss which puts me squarely in the AM category.
But, and here’s the key point, as anyone who knows anything about me or who has taken the trouble to read a blog post or two will know full well, I’m barely comfortable calling myself an author let alone prefixing that with anything else.
I write books and I sell books, that’s as far as it goes for me and if someone wants to tag me as this or that label, that’s their business. It’s certainly not mine because I’m too busy writing.
Which is actually how it should be.
I’ve been receiving lots of questions about Top Dog and in particular, requests for information about when it will hit the big screen.
The answer to that is that I don’t actually know for sure and whilst that sounds hard to believe I promise you it’s true. I might be the writer but the whole thing is in the hands of the editor at the moment and until he’s worked his magic, I’m firmly out of the loop. Rest assured though, as soon as I have news, it’ll be all over Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into my next movie project We Still Kill The Old Way which is starting to look really exciting.
On the subject of books, both The Crew and Wings of a Sparrow are now available in both print and eBook format from all online and high street book stores. Top Dog will also be re-released next spring as a movie tie-in.
Finally, could I say a huge thanks to all those people who have contacted me about Billy’s Log lately. For some reason (and I wish I knew what it was) it’s started to sell really well again and I’ve had a flood of mails asking me about a sequel.
I’m happy to tell you that there is indeed going to be a second instalment and indeed, it’s all mapped out so as soon as time allows, I’ll get my teeth into it. Promise!
As a writer, you inevitably spend a good portion of your time alone. The process is after all, fairly solitary and in truth, that’s one of the great attractions. At least it is for me. I’m not really a people person you see. Or to be more specific, I’m not really a real people person.
For on most days, I’m not actually alone at all, I’m in the company of all kinds of characters. Men, women, kids, hooligans, old men, glamorous women, thieves, thugs, hero’s… the list is endless. In fact it’s limited only by my imagination, because that’s where they live.
The joy of that is that they exist purely at my bidding and are real only for as long as I want them to be. Some I will meet only once, others will remain for a long time. Sometimes we have fun, sometimes I put them through all kinds of grief, sometimes I just watch what they do and feed off them. People are amazing, even imaginary ones.
Now I know this makes me sound like some kind of mental case and if I were to chop off the first paragraph of this post and read it aloud to my doctor, she’d be quite justified in having me sectioned.
But the key word in that first paragraph is ‘writer’. Creating is what I do and my vivid imagination is my primary and most important tool. That’s how I can get away with having a mind which is a cross between a bizarre soap opera with only one viewer and a computer game with only one player. Both of which are me.
Sometimes however, it all goes horribly wrong. Or rather, fabulously wrong. Yesterday was one such occasion because filming began on my own adaptation of Top Dog. A novel I wrote well over ten years ago and which itself is the sequel to a book which first hit the bookshelves over thirteen years ago! And as I sat on set watching scenes I had created in my head actually being played out for real, I was frequently struck by how different it all looked from how I had imagined it. And the truth is, it looked a whole lot better in 3D.
That has taught me a very important lesson and it’s one which is almost certainly going to make me a better screenwriter.
Because actors are real, locations are real. And as a writer, if you want to give your characters and situations life, the best way to do it is to understand that unlike the people in your head, they already have it.
Aside from the commencement of filming on Top Dog which will continue for a while yet, this week will also see two of my novels hit the shelves of WH Smiths (and all decent bookshops).
The first is the print edition of my most recent book, Wings of a Sparrow and the second is a re-issue of The Crew which continues to hold on to the #1 slot on the sports download charts. A position it’s held for well over two years now.
When I first became an author, one of the things I looked forward to was the opportunity to go on book tours. These, I imagined, would be huge affairs where people would queue around blocks waiting for me to sign books whilst at the same time fawning all over me telling me how awesome I am and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want that?
For some people I suspect, that’s exactly what they’re like. For me however, they are slightly different. Well OK, they are totally different. Alright then, I don’t do them at all. At least not in the UK.
The reasons for this are many and varied but the primary one is that as someone who still struggles to come to terms with the fact that I’m actually getting away with writing for a living, the idea that people would actually take time out of their busy lives to come and see me in the flesh simply because I am an ‘author’ that they like does not actually compute. That’s not false modesty, it’s fact.
There is however, an exception to this and it’s one which has in many respects, crept up on me. Because for some bizarre reason, my books are becoming increasingly popular abroad and if an overseas publisher invites me, I always go and I always sign. And I love it!
I mention this now because I have just returned from St. Petersburg where I did a shed load of PR to launch the Russian translation of Wings of a Sparrow.
This was actually my third visit to the city and I really do love it there which is ironic given that I spent 18 years helping to repel the might of the Soviet Union as a member of Her Majesties armed forces. To say it the trip was a blast is an understatement and as always, it was a series of brilliant experiences punctuated with the odd bout of terror. Let me tell you, being driven at speed through the suburbs of a Russian city by four blokes you’ve never seen before and no idea of your destination certainly focusses the mind!
Of course as always, I had nothing to worry about because that’s just the way things are done over there. Indeed, everyone I met was amazingly warm and generous and all of the signings and events were brilliant. So much so in fact, that plans are already afoot to go back next year. This time equipped with some better Russian language skills I hope!
The success of the trip has however, got me thinking. For with Wings of a Sparrow and The Crew due to hit the bookshelves of the UK before the end of November and both Top Dog and We Still Kill The Old Way heading for filming within the next six months, has the time come to actually think about doing some signings over here?
Or would that, as I suspect and indeed, fear, be too pretentious?
Wings of a Sparrow will be published by Caffeine Nights Publishing on October 21st. It is available to pre-order from Amazon by clicking here. If you would prefer an eBook, you can download it now via here.