Sunday, 8 June 2014

Juggling the genres

I'm back.

My excuse for the prolonged absence is that I've been struggling for a while with family and work commitments, but hopefully this is the start of regular contributions again. I plan to do a series on my favourite parts of my books, why and what I felt when I was writing the passages.

First though, a new departure. I've just self-published a book called War Games on Amazon Kindle. It's a crime novel and why, I hear you ask, would I be straying into another genre when I already write historical fiction as myself and thrillers as James Douglas? The simple reason is that the book existed, in fact there are two of them.

When I wrote The End of The Emperor's Elephant (which went on to become Caligula and Claudius), I had no idea if it would ever be published and I had no idea where to go next. The answer was to write another book. I knew I could write historical fiction, so why not try something else? That very night I came up with a character who created himself in my sleep and talked to me in a voice that I knew would be a great backdrop to a novel. His name was Glen Savage and he was a Falklands War veteran who'd repressed an intermittent psychic gift for thirty years. Now he uses the gift to help the police find the bodies of missing murder victims: the last resort after all the other last resorts have struck out. I wrote the book in the first person and the effect was like a Sam Spade voiceover for one of those Fifties noir movies.

I offered the book to my publisher, but I already had two parallel strands going with them and they declined. What's the point of writing a book if nobody can read it? Transworld said they were happy for me to self-publish it and Amazon provided the means. Obviously, there's also a financial incentive. Amazon offers royalties of between thirty and seventy percent, against the publisher's twenty five, that allows me to price the book low, but still make a reasonable return. Hopefully, the low price will attract more readers who'll be impressed enough to buy the second book when I publish it later in the year.

There are obvious drawbacks to self-publishing. You don't have the back-up of big publishing resources, editors, copy editors and proof-readers, and the only promotion the book will get is on blogs like this and through word of mouth, so it's basically flying solo. Fortunately, I've had help from my agent and I'd like to thank my friend, and veteran self-publisher, Simon Turney, (The brilliant Marius Mules series) for his patient advice as I struggled with formats and uploading.

The upside is that you have the flexibility to publish what you want, when you want and get an immediate return for your efforts. Hopefully, you'll like Glen Savage as much as I do. Give him a try for less than the price of a skinny latte for a limited period only!