Where have you been all this time? Editing a long-sort-of-lost novel

I’ve published two collections of short stories (did I ever mention Basement Tales and You Could Make a Killing?) to test the waters in self-publishing, Kindle and so forth but these have been, in a sense, warm ups before I start publishing novels.

I have a number of novels in various stage – one fully written (more on this in a moment), one which I’ve featured the first chapter of in You Could Make a Killing, and which is fleshed out, written as two episodes in the form of a TV script, and well under way in writing. For those of you who have read You Could Make a Killing (and if you haven’t – check out the links at the bottom of this article), you’ll know it’s a fun poke at the Private Investigator genre.  I’m really enjoying writing it, and my wife is really enjoying creating the cover for it…

And then there’s the novel which already exists. I wrote Air of December over a number of years, taking some of my experiences of living in Hokkaido, Japan as a basis for creating a mystery murder with the thoughts of an on-going series featuring an off-beat couple of protagonists who just can’t seem to help getting themselves into trouble.

Yes, there’s influences there from Joe Lansdale, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais…but I was going with the bastardized maxim, ‘Write what you like to read’.

The book, which is called ‘Air of December‘ (no relation to my final Film Studies project ‘Air of December’ which was an apocalyptic Twilight Zone/ Sci-Fi horror type piece but I tended to call a lot of things ‘Air of December’ back in the day because I liked the sound of it.) was the one that got me an agent back in the day after I’d started getting some shorts published. It was presented by him to a publisher reader who didn’t like it so much and thought it was a little too ‘James Patterson’ in style…(hey, maybe I should contact James, and see if he wants to release his third co-written book of this week…just a thought). And, young (this was a long time ago), disheartened, I put the book to one side and went on to different things.

Looking back, that was a stupid thing to do – (firing the agent a year or so later when he still hadn’t sold a single thing for me, less so) I of course now read the stories of JK Rowling and many, many others who write about how many rejections they got. One person does not know definitively if something is good or bad. But, that was then, this is now. At the time, I looked over the book and agreed it was no good (although I never got the James Patterson comparison), and left it alone.

A lot has changed in the twenty years or so since I wrote the book, and the fifteen or so since I last looked at it.

Working on my new novel, I dug it out, thinking I’d take another look at it, and see what I’d change, and whether there was still something in the book I used to love, and after one criticism decided I didn’t, that I wanted to spend more time with. If nothing else, I thought it would be an interesting critiquing exercise.

And guess what? I found I do still like it.

There’s a lot of stuff that I want to change, and it’s a historical piece now: the Japan people knew about back then and its’ growth in cultural awareness has grown considerably in 20 years. A lot of the technology/ fashions/ references in the book are of their time. But you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve started re-reading the book properly, and am brutally editing it in between working on my ‘real’ new novel, and there’s a lot in there I still like. There are most definitely changes I’m making – starting with a preface where we frame the story for what it is: a story set in 1992, being remembered by a man now 50 – looking back at a time in his life with nostalgia – of the good and bad sort. I’m considering taking out the killer interludes altogether. (The rejecting reader wasn’t clear whether the first person protagonist was the killer which told me both she wasn’t reading closely, and I wasn’t writing clearly…) I think the killer pov interludes are a bit done to death now so I may well drop it: it’ll make the novel a slower burn, lot of background before we get to the first known murder, but that’s not such a bad thing.

I think Hokkaido is still an amazing place full stop. I think it’s got a lot of potential for a novel – it’s been used before, but not nearly as much as a Tokyo or an Osaka, or a Okinawa. My time there was equally amazing – being the only Westerner in the village had a lot of experiences, and, as my thoughts tend to go…sprung up ideas for murder.

There’s some work to go: this isn’t the cover, for example, but it’ll give an idea of the tone:

AoDCover

 

And this isn’t the final copy – this is the recently added prologue and even THIS has got edits on it already so you can imagine how much the original text has: in some cases I’m writing more notes than there was original text on the page…

Page1AoD

I don’t know where the book will end up in terms of production, but I’m actually enjoying (re)reading it. And it reminds me of one thing, if nothing else:

Never throw anything away.

Watch this space, for updates…

 

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