It all started, really, with a desire to pay tribute to my weird home town. You have to be in Newcastle (upon Tyne, northeastern England) on a Friday or a Saturday night to get the vibe of it – a post-industrial world, a mining and ship-building town where those industries have failed, struggling to get itself reborn, hard-edged steel meeting and clashing with nightclub lights, old-school moral values pierced through by green shoots of a vibrant gay culture. I’d drafted out two novels in the course of one year and I was exhausted. I was trying to build up a backlist before I started approaching publishers but I didn’t know where to go with the third one. Then Josh Lanyon – a mentor and friend whose inspiration, kindness, and sheer whip-cracking encouragement has got me out of more pits than I can possibly tell you – suggested I write something “short and festive”, to keep it close to home, and to try a first-person POV. Well, Life After Joe is relatively short. I’m not the world’s most festive soul (if tinsel is mentioned, it will probably be getting trodden into blood on a hospital floor). But “close to home” set my creative fibres tingling, and that tip about POV really did it for me. I’d never tried it before. It felt entirely different, set me writing in a more direct and dialogue-based manner than I’d ever attempted, and I liked the results. Of course, it had its own challenges! Other writers reading this will recognise the moment when you really, really want to describe your first-person protagonist, and unless he looks in a mirror or catches a glimpse of his lovely self in a shop window or pond… Still, it was great fun, and I found a new lease of energy, getting the first draft finished in about eight weeks. With Josh’s encouragement – and editing, and patience, and insistence that I quit with the “lyrical shorthand” and deliver the love – I submitted it to Carina.
There’s no feeling in the world that can possibly come close to what goes through your heart when you see that acceptance email in your inbox. Nothing. A newborn baby in your arms, maybe, or loving someone and having that love unexpectedly returned… Maybe that sounds strange, although I’d be willing to bet that a few authors reading this might recognise the incomparable rush!
I had serious qualms about the editing process. Again, it was a first for me, apart from being at Josh’s tender yet Svengali-like mercies. However, I had the good fortune of working with Kym Hinton at Carina, and the whole thing was so much less painful than I’d expected – fun, believe it or not, mostly because of Kym’s unfailing good humour, and also because even whilst struggling to dispose of those little authorial “tics” that creep into your work, it was great to see the story shaping up into its final form. What made the big difference for me – and it might seem obvious, but during editing, which by its very nature is critical, it’s easy to forget – is that Kym reminded me before we started that she loved the book. That really was an enormous help, especially during those cold dark 5:30am editing sessions when you start to wonder what the hell you’re doing and who you were trying to kid when you told yourself that you could be an author. So thanks to Kym, to Angela and all at Carina for giving me this opportunity, and to you for reading this blog. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you’ll take a look at my favourite lines and fun facts on Facebook. I’ll look forward to seeing your comments on this post, and remember that leaving a comment here or on Facebook will enter you for a chance of winning a digital copy of Life After Joe.