Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Coping with (an author's) split personality

One of the most frequent questions I'm asked is how I manage to jump about between being Douglas Jackson and James Douglas, my alter ego who writes mystery thrillers like The Doomsday Testament, The Isis Covenant, and now, The Excalibur Codex.

The answer is that I don't - at least not normally - I take three or four months to write a historical novel at the start of the year, take a rest, then morph into a thriller writer for the next four. Ah, I hear you ask, so what do you do in the other four months, you lazy/lucky so and so? Well, I do what I'm doing at the moment, which is juggling between not two books, but five.

Out August 15
Out August 29
I've just started writing Enemy of Rome, the fifth in the Valerius Verrens series, which takes place in the second part of the Year of the Four Emperors. The fourth in that series, Sword of Rome, ending with the First Battle of Bedriacum, is now at the copy-edit fact-checking stage (at least I haven't heard if there's a problem with the editor's main rewrite).  The Excalibur Codex is with Simon, my editor, and he'll be getting back to me in the next couple of weeks with suggestions on how to improve it. In all, the edit, copy-edit and proofreading of each book probably takes at least another month each, and means jumping in and out of the work in progress like a Jack-in-the-Box.

The long-running saga of my crime books continues. Stan, the agent, has the latest version of War Games, which is now the opener, and I was hoping it would be out there by now, but that appears to have been wishful thinking.

And I'm still dipping into The Emperor's Elephant of an evening, which I hope to persuade my publishers to put out as an e-book, but I now realise isn't quite up to the standard of my current work. I don't have time to do a full rewrite so am I justified in publishing the book to finish off the Rufus story, even though it might look like a step backwards? Answers on a postcard ...

Oh, I've put together the synopses for a new series of four books by James Douglas, for when the possibly too likeable, but very capable, Jamie Saintclair has run his course (which may be some time yet).

In the meantime here's a precis and a sneak preview of the cover of The Excalibur Codex. The copy-line/subtitle will change, and there might be a tweak in the design to put it at the bottom of the cover, but you get the picture. 


For countless generations the sword had been kept hidden away ready for a time of need, but not hidden well enough because on a warm July night in 1937 it vanished to be swallowed up in the storm clouds of war that would soon engulf the world.

In the spring of 1941 twelve SS generals gather in an East Prussian castle to re-enact an ancient rite and call on the spirits of Europe’s mightiest warriors to aid them in the coming battle in the East. At the heart of the ritual is a pentagram formed by five swords. One of them is Excalibur, the mythical weapon pulled from a stone by King Arthur.

2010 - ‘My time is close, but I cannot pass without revealing what I saw and, perhaps, making amends for what I have done …’  Art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair laughs when he reads the codex to a German war veteran’s will and the strange ritual it describes. But arms collector Adam Steele, is convinced enough to enter into a binding agreement that if Jamie can find the sword, Steele will pay a small fortune for it.

The hunt for Excalibur takes Jamie from Germany to eastern Poland, a deadly encounter in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair and the discovery that the castle has been destroyed down to the last stone. The only clue to the sword’s fate is the strange tale of a partisan unit murdered by its own commander. 

With a team of international assassins on his trail and the distinction between friend and enemy a blur, Jamie finally makes it back to a Britain under siege, where the last piece of the puzzle falls into place and he discovers that the line between obsession and madness is gossamer thin.


Giles Kristian said...

Doug, four months!? By Thor's hairy arse! You've actually made my day because if you can do it in 4 then I can (hopefully) do it in 6!

Doug said...

It's not that bad, Giles. All you have to do is do the hard yards early on, weather the inevitable crisis in the middle, and then manage your time to deal with the flurry of rewrites, edits and proof-reading just when you should be getting on with the next one. I'm lucky that TW have scheduled delivery for October and Feb, even though they both come out the following August.

Martin Lake said...

I do something similar, Doug. I've just finished the first draft of the third novel in my 'The Lost King' series and, while it's resting, I'm planning the second novel in my Crusades series. I'll work on the Lost King and then go on to draft 1 of the Crusades novel.

I find that taking a big break between drafts gives me the distance and enthusiasm to roll up my sleeves and get down to my rewrite. Martin Lake