Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Summer. And we love nothing better than flying off to restful, idyllic, carefree environments. Places where we can soak up the sun. Places where we can partake of exotic food and drink…

 Places where we can read about the gory exploits of crazed but highly intelligent serial killers.

Odd that. Although we would definitely not want to live next door to one, so many of us find great delight in reading novels about psychopaths- and novelists seem to be continually stretching themselves to find crueller and bloodier methods with which they can dispose of their victims.

This year I read two novels during my one-week break: Velocity, by Dean Koontz, and ‘Book of the Dead, by Patricia Cornwell.

I was on sure ground with Koontz, and I took great pleasure in the fact that (**NAMEDROP ALERT**)   Velocity was recommended to me by Koontz himself. Considering his output, I’m sure that the reply to my letter was sent from the pile labelled ‘send to wannabee authors seeking advice,’ but it did bear his signature (In ink) and has influenced the style of my next novel. Koontz suggested that any new novelist attempting to break into the field should go for the ‘High Concept Novel.’ He said that the only novel of his that he considered ‘High Concept’ was Velocity.

And it is a great rollercoaster of a read. So what would you do if you received a letter which said ‘ If you don’t take this note to the police, I will KILL a lovely blonde schoolteacher somewhere in Napa county. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead KILL an elderly woman.’

I’m sure that in this position I’d just take the note, but in true Koontzian fashion there are lots of good reasons why it isn’t that simple, and a strange logic to how Billy, the hero of the piece gets further and further embroiled. Lots of beautifully ghoulish scenes about how to dispose of a dead body without spoiling your carpet, and a satisfying denoument in which we find that the clues really have been there all along.

I have never read a Patricia Cornwell, and am aware that Book of the Dead is quite a way into the series of Kay Scarpetta novels. This made no difference to my enjoyment of the book, as there were enough references to the characters’ backstories to put you in the picture.

The characters are brilliantly crafted, and in addition to detailed forensics there is immaculate characterisation. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the complex relationships of the major characters are portrayed.

If you don’t like forensic detail- e.g. descriptions of bodies with their skin peeled off and eyes removed- not by the psycho but by the good guys- in order to confirm that abuse has taken place, then this novel is not for you.

I thought it was excellent, and will be looking for more in the series.

 

I’d like to think that someone, somewhere in the world has said that recently…

(I’m talking about my book, what do you think I meant?)

I’m at the stage now as a newly published author where I’m starting to get feedback from people who have read my book- some of them friends, others people I have never met who are e-mailing or writing reviews on my Amazon page.

 

It’s a strange feeling. I had clear ideas when I wrote ‘Tasting the Wind’ of what I wanted to convey, and am pleased to say that for the most part that readers seem to be grasping that (which is probably more a statement about the intelligence of my readers than my writing skills.)

 What is amazing me are the themes that some readers are picking out that are clearly there but of which I wasn’t aware during the writing process. I’ve also had comments about scenes which I didn’t think the strongest of the piece, but which some readers found the most memorable.

 

It is also really flattering to hear people talking about my characters by name- characters I have lived with for over a decade- and to hear them referred to as if they actually exist: ‘When Eddie said this…’ ‘When Andrew did that…’ ‘That Martin’s a bit of a lad isn’t he?’

 

I have gone to great lengths to differentiate between myself and Martin, the major protagonist. He is thin and freckly with ginger hair. I am not. He comes from a broken home, I do not. The only comparisons are that in creating Martin I drew upon my experiences of moving to London in the mid- 80s to work in care. I did work in an electronics factory for a short time, but that was in gap years between school, college and university.

 

Writing about situations about which you are passionate is a little like exposing your soul to anyone who cares to look. When writing and publishing you do have to ask yourself if you are happy for absolutely anyone to be given a glimpse into your imagination, and if you can’t cope with that- don’t do it.

 

Similarly, in this world of instant and widespread communication via the internet, people have been finding out the hard way just how public and accessible their jottings are. One man made critical observations on Twitter about Memphis, after he had visited in a business capacity, and this was picked up by his hosts, who were far from impressed. Another man commented about his new job that he was having to balance the size of the pay cheque against hating the work, and the comment was seen by his new employer.

 

So if you are thinking about curling up with Allan Mayer tonight be careful how you phrase it. And don’t put it on Twitter- just send me a personal e-mail… and maybe your phone number….

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 Author RUTH ESTEVEZ                     

“My novel, Meeting Coty was turned down by the big publishers, mainly
because it was too short (65,000 words approx). 80,000 is the magic
number! A new, small publisher who wanted to support the books they
felt strongly about, took it on. They put great effort into the look
of it, but unfortunately, small presses don’t have the money or clout
to put into marketing. Factual or local interest books seem to fare
better than fiction with small presses as they are angled to specific
markets.
Print on demand means that bookshops can’t financially afford to stock
copies on their shelves which means that the casual buyer won’t buy
your book as they can’t physically see it. Also, though available to
order, it often comes out as more expensive as a small publisher will
charge postage which bookshops often have to pass on to the customer
in order to make any profit.
The publishing you are discussing on this blog will find it just as
hard, maybe even harder to get into bookshops, so it’s up to the
writer to use any means available to publicise their book. Sites such
as University Alumni, local newspapers, radio stations, festivals and
bookshops are usually helpful. If your book has an IBSN, I would
suggest registering it with the Public Lending Right (www.plr.uk.com)
so that it can be ordered through the library system. Friends in the
right places are always useful too! Good luck to every new writer out
there!”

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