The Big One?

So this is 2010 then.
Already it feels a better than 2009, which was always just 2010 waiting to happen. Now we have a fully fledged 10 in there and it’s always nice to round things up. As is usually the way at the beginning of a new year, it’s a time for reflection – a time to look forward and fulfill those promises to our dreams.

I don’t like to blow my own trumpet (it hurts, frankly, trying to bend down that far) but I think that I did pretty well way back in 2006 to get my 3 book Cornelius Quaint contract with The Friday Project/HarperCollins. It is probably the only time in my life where I have had a dream come to fruition (and not just simply change my dream into something else when it didn’t work out) – writing something that I worked hard at, spending all my freetime trying to make this thing happen, and having an end product to be proud of. It can be a lonely place of dying, sat alone at a keyboard wondering if this story is ‘the big one’, the idea that will knock people’s socks off and be successful enough for me to quit my day job and do what I love full-time, knowing that you are doing right by your story but yet not knowing if it’ll be ‘good enough’. I’ve still got many novel ideas saved, ready for me to revisit them and renew them with more experienced eyes. Seeing as it’s a new year, I think it’s more important to focus on what I am doing now, have recently done, and will soon do…
When my first book THE EQUIVOQUE PRINCIPLE was released in paperback last February 2009 I hoped for the best. It was an unknown quantity – as was I. I was lucky enough to have a savvy publisher, and as there had been a glut of Victorian detective/thriller/romp stories released prior to Equivoque, I knew that this would either impede or propel me. Fans of that genre might have picked it up wanting more of the same, or non-fans might have avoided it completely on that basis. Secretly, I hoped that my book was original enough for people to enjoy it, with a good adventure story at its heart, populated with an interesting cast and an engaging hero, and with lots of teases for what might come in the future. I’m confident enough now to want to stand up and shout “For crying out loud, don’t judge it on whether it’s a good Victorian book – judge it on whether it’s a bloody good story or not full-stop!” I’ve read reviews where people have criticised Equivoque as not being ‘Victorian’ enough…(sigh)…I want to say that it was never intended to be a Victorian detective thriller – the fact that it was set in 1853 was a consequence of the story – because this is hard to believe perhaps, but I did not consciously choose to set it in that era…that was just where the story took me, and at its heart the idea is pure. I won’t apologise for that. The story (which is what it is, let’s be fair…it’s a bloody storybook!) is for amusement, relaxation, escapism, humour, the thrill of the ride etc – not open for a review on its historical accuracy. It was not meant to be a clinical dissection of the Victorian age – that was just a backdrop, just scene-setting, nothing more.
I’ve read the book myself somewhere in the region of twenty times, and still today I look back and can’t remember writing some of it. It still excites me, and I – upon stepping back and changing my hat from reader into writer – still enjoy it. Yet, with the passage of time comes experience, and now I find when I read it there are so many things that I would do differently – and some that I would change altogether – but it is what it is. If it was a movie, perhaps I could do a Director’s Cut and re-release it….but The Equivoque Principle was the first brick laid and will always be open to scrutiny. It sold okay, if you’re wondering. Nothing major. Nothing to set book charts alike or anything like that, but I had to keep reminding myself to be realistic, and a few thousand copies sold by an unknown author is something to be proud of. At the end of the day, writing is my hobby, and to get anything back from that – be it positive feedback, some good contacts, and enough moola to take the family on holiday – then Yay for me.
THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE is the sequel to Equivoque and when things will begin to click together – for both Cornelius Quaint’s adventures and hopefully my career. Equivoque was just the first brick. What comes next takes that foundation and builds upon it. Everything is the same, and yet everything is different. Things are done, things are said, seeds are sown, and all sorts of roads lead from where it ends.
It is released in March of this year by the kindly folk at The Friday Project, and in many ways the book’s success will be even more crucial to me than THE EQUIVOQUE PRINCIPLE’s was, because this is where it kicks things off in earnest, and gets to the ‘heart’ of my original idea…which was always intended to be a series whose story transcends across so many different genres that it is difficult to pigeon-hole it.
Cornelius Quaint and Madame Destine will face challenges of the heart and mind, tortures of the soul and body in Egypt, and some very fun, unexpected and interesting things will occur, and it is my hope that Plague will all of a sudden stand out from the Victoriana crowd for what the series was intended to be in my mind. In many ways, THE EQUIVOQUE PRINCIPLE was a pilot episode, a mini-series entree – a big 300+ page scene setter. Not to do the book any disservice – it was supposed to be that way – but the things that happen as a direct consequence of Cornelius Quaint’s actions rival all sorts of parallels and likenesses.
To borrow a neat little trick from this month’s copy of Empire, when THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE is listed in Amazon it might just as well say: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, DOCTOR WHO, THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, JAMES BOND, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, HARRY POTTER, FLASHMAN and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”.
So for now, to borrow a quote from Matt Smith…”Geronimo, 2010!”

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