Done – ish (. . . for now)

So I’m finished, done, finis, well the complete draft of my latest effort, ‘Shadows of the Morning Light, Shadows of the Evening Sun’ anyway. Give or take 70,000 words in four months, I’m fucking knackered.

I know it needs a lot more work but for the moment I don’t want to look at it, not sure I can.

What to do with it now is the next question. I’ll send it out into the world to see if it can find a home, maybe it will, or maybe it won’t and might end up chained in the attic like its older brother, who knows?

Either way, a night or two off is required. If anyone needs me I’ll be the one trying to scrape what remains of my brain back inside my skull

The Next Big Thing

First things first, thanks to my friend Janet Cameron O’Faolain (http://www.asimplejan.com) who passed this idea my direction, and apologies for taking so bloody long in responding.

The idea is that each blogger answer the questions listed below and pass them on to whoever they want after that, and the questions circulate around the blogosphere like some electronic chain letter, though should anyone wish to take up the chain rest assured that I’ve sat on the damn thing so long any bad luck is bound to fall on my head so please proceed without worry.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Oddly enough it was one of those flashes that never seem to come, I was sitting at home one night and a leaflet was stuffed through my letterbox, a flyer for a take-away or something, and the snap of the letterbox startled me, and that turned into the idea of something unwanted coming through the letterbox, which turned into a gun, which turned into the story.

What genre does your book fall under?

In the broader sense it is a crime book, as in it involves characters who live in a world in which crimes are committed, though not in the conventional sense where solving a crime is the object of the story. In terms of the lives of the characters, their situations and actions I would class it as Noir; basically I tend to start with characters already in a bad place, and go downhill from there.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Curious question, and one that I really can’t answer. Not out of any sense of modesty, or false modesty, it’s just that I’ve written the two main characters in the book from the inside out, I barely provide them with physical descriptions, I actually haven’t given either of them names. The story is told as what are essentially alternating monologues, what I’m trying to do is crawl inside each character and experience the story from there.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Two men, one gun, one desperate to get it back to save a life, the other desperate to use it to get back the life he lost.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Sadly at the moment the book will sit growling on my hard drive, having neither agent nor publisher. I have entered it in the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair Competition 2013, but if it isn’t successful there I’ll probably send it out hoping to hook myself an agent, and failing that I might look at e-publishing. Being something of a traditionalist I still aspire to see my name on a physical book sitting on bookshop shelves.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Funnily enough I started the book in early October 2012 and should have a first draft finished by January 2013. This is a lot quicker than anything else I’ve written before, necessitated by the closing date of the Novel Fair competition, which can only mean either I’m on to a winner or I’ve made an awful, awful mess of things.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Also known as the ‘who have you stolen from’ question. Usually my writing will have elements of those crime writers I admire most, namely David Goodis and Derek Raymond, though in this case I can certainly detect elements of Jim Thompson and Georges Simenon, though these are aspects that I pick up on, or think I pick up on, myself, more than likely anyone that reads the thing would see something totally different. I even see little crumbs of Samuel Beckett but that may be no more than wishful thinking. I’ve always truly believed that each writer is a product of those writers he or she admires most, whether we try to or not their work will always seep in, there’s no point in trying to avoid it. The best any of us can do is try to throttle back the inspirational tap as much as possible and mix it with as much of ourselves as we can in a confusing metaphor kind of way.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Really have no idea. I suppose I’ve always loved stories about people who are trapped in situations outside of their control, and their efforts to get out of them, though in their hearts they know the situation is probably doomed. It’s the idea of fate, though without any supernatural being or beings overseeing things, that and the premise of the gun and away we go.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Awful, awful question. If you want a crime fiction book that isn’t about a detective who’s essentially a superhero without a cape chasing after an infinitely-resourced serial killer with a fixation on a classic work of fiction, and who between them pile up bodies like discarded cigarettes, this may be the book for you. If you prefer a book where people struggle against a world outside of their control, who try to do right even though they know they will ultimately fail and where you crawl inside the skulls of these characters, and learn more about them than you ever want, then this may be a book for you.

Thanks again to Janet for passing the questions on to me and anyone out there with their own blog is more than welcome to take them on, answer them as you wish and let the chain continue.

Just saying is all

Before this thing degenerates into me completely peering up my own arsehole I should try to get it back on track, that is my attempt to promote my own writing with the goal of one day being published and having a book, or books, taking up space on the shelves of bookshops across the country. I’ve attached extracts of my own attempts at pissing into the void above.

So far I’ve completed one novel, ‘This Dirty Road’, which, as I said elsewhere, was one of the winners of the inaugural Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair competition.

I am currently working on my second novel ‘Shadows of the Morning Light, Shadows of the Evening Sun’.

Extracts of both can be found by clicking on the banners above.

Why I write what I write (part 1 of probably a lot)

Why do I write what I write and why do I write what I write in the way that I write?

A question that everyone who’s ever tried to write a story, poem, play has asked themselves, though they may have asked the question better.

Over the years when I’ve tried to write, I knew I wanted to be a writer, I tried many different styles, many different types of story that I wanted to tell. I’ve no real reason why I settled on what I have now. I’m no expert on literary theory and can only explain it in terms of music, though I have no musical training either.

‘For years I tried to play in a string quartet before I realised that all I wanted to do was play in a garage band’

Just to say, that’s in no way a comment on either string quartets or garage bands, it’s just the best way I can describe it. Nor is it a comment on anyone’s writing style or subject matter. I really do believe that, in essence, each of us can only write a certain way. No two people can write the same way. No two people can write the same sentence. I found crime fiction, and more specifically I found my own niche of crime fiction.

I’ve no particular interest in police procedurals, in serial killers, in CSI type analytical stories. What I love is Noir, that amorphous bastard offspring of the crime genre where failure, damnation and despair rule, and yet where the protagonists try to obtain some form of redemption through their actions, though they know that it will ultimately achieve nothing. The world will go on despite them, the bad guys will often win and the good guys, if they survive, will not ride off into the sunset with their best gal by their sides.

Noir isn’t about providing corpses for a genius detective to mull over, providing cadavers for sadistic, unrealistic and often farcical serial killers to murder in increasingly bizarre ways. If Noir provides a body it’s to serve as an example to be held up of the failings of the protagonists, the people around them, the world at large. That one person is murdered is a failing of us all. And remember, in the world of Noir there is no afterlife, there is no happy ending, you will not be rewarded. You strive, you fail, yet you continue, ultimately knowing that you will fail, but in the words of another writer, you go on, you fail better.

Repeat!!!

Repeat after me

Blogging is not writing!

Blogging is not writing!

Blogging is not writing!

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Blogging is not writing!

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Blogging is not writing!

That is all.

Hey Jack Kerouac

It’s probably very appropriate that one of my first posts concerns Jack Kerouac, not because of the recent release of ‘On The Road’ in cinemas, but because he’s probably someone who inspired me more than perhaps anyone else to try to become a writer.

Like a lot of people I discovered Kerouac while I was in college, I know, so far, so clichéd. But instead of inspiring me to buy some Levi’s or run off and see the ‘Road’, it was the first time I read anyone that seriously made me think that I might want to be a writer as well. I’d been a reader for years, an avid reader, I’ve been told I could read the newspaper before I started school, well some of the words, and considering the misery of the mid-to-late Seventies this might explain my preference for reading matter dealing with the darker side of life, but I digress.

Reading Kerouac was the first time I can say I was inspired to become a writer myself. I remember giving serious thought to transferring out of my Civil Engineering course to something like English Literature. Though among other factors, the realisation that most of my favourite writers tend to come from a more naturalistic, certainly less structured tradition, counted against it. I know this is a gross simplification but many of my favourites tend to favour the guttural punch or the knee to the groin instead of the surgical incision. Plus, even the name was fantastic ‘Kerouac’, a sound I’d never heard, something far-off and special, I had to go searching for it and see where it lead me

Anyway I know that the seeds of me trying to write were planted when I first read Kerouac, and through him my reading expanded to include not only the rest of the Beats, but writers like Nelson Algren, Henry Miller, and many more, and on to others that may be possibly classified as their crime equivalents, such as Derek Raymond and David Goodis.

I have always been grateful to Kerouac, both in how he inspired me and how he broadened my reading world. and yet there’s a problem.

A problem I long feared, to be honest, a problem that left my Kerouac books sitting untouched on my shelves for many years. What would happen if I read Kerouac again and found he didn’t work for me?

Recently I decided to find out. With the imminent release of the film I took out my copy of On The Road, a nice 40th anniversary hardback edition I picked up many years ago in San Francisco no less, and started reading.

And my fears were all too true, I just don’t care anymore, I don’t care about the jazz, I don’t care about the wild search for ‘kicks’ and I don’t care about the people, how Dean Moriarty / Neal Cassady wasn’t kicked up and down the street on a regular basis I don’t know. But I might have forgiven it all of these things if I still felt some engagement with the story, it just flies by on the surface, I never felt I was getting under anyone’s skin anymore, never felt I could understand how anyone was feeling or thinking at any time, it never felt, to use a horrible phrase, Real, at all. And reading it now one thing that stands out is how self-absorbed and self obsessed they all were, no doubt no more or less than any of us at similar ages, but everyone around them seems to exist either to be railed against, in the form of their wives, families or other people in general, or exist to provide ‘Kicks’, whether they be, again, wives, or girlfriends, or the poor and homeless, or Blacks, or Mexicans. Curiously the film actually makes the case for the damage the Beats did to the women in their circle far better than the book does, perhaps the Original Scroll or the numerous biographies of the people involved have helped flesh out their voices.

The entire process left me feeling very sad if I’m honest, something I had treasured for over twenty years is now tarnished, spoiled, and something I can never look at the same way again. Maybe that’s the way it should be? Maybe I’m just too old for Ol’ Sal and Dean and should move aside, let someone else go searching for the name Kerouac and see where it leads them.

(I remember seeing Terry Pratchett interviewed once and he said something to the effect that there is something terribly wrong with a Ten year old boy who doesn’t think that Lord of the Rings is the greatest book ever written, while there is also something terribly wrong with a Thirty year old man who still thinks that Lord of the Rings is the greatest book ever written.)

I’m sure I’ll keep my copy of On The Road, it’ll sit on my shelves with every other book I value, but I’m just not sure I’ll ever read it again.