We were delighted to hear that John's 2017 novel prize shortlisted novel, The Trauma Pool has now been published. His submission had us gripped right from the start. Below, John tells us about his journey to publication.
About ten years ago, someone gave me some very valuable criticism and advice. It boiled down to two basic ideas. ‘There’s just too much of you in this,’ and ‘Your writing errs towards the literary’.
I had not long finished a creative writing MA, had completed a draft of something I was calling a ‘contemporary fiction/thriller with funny bits type of thing’ (that wasn’t what I was putting in the cover letter) and I’d had an editor look at it. And that’s what he came up with.
Too much of me in it. How could there be too much of me in it?
Unless he meant that I’d basically taken various parts of my life and rolled them into a narrative involving characters who were all pretty much me, maybe me on different days, and written a pillow fantasy about what I wished had happened at a certain point in my life. I wasn’t telling a story, or if I was, it wasn’t really a story anyone but me would want to read.
Okay, but erring towards the literary. Really?
It usually takes me a few days with criticism. I have to let it percolate and see what sits right with my internal judge, the voice that knows what’s right, even when it’s been convinced otherwise by my ego, or other people’s egos. But this one took maybe an hour. It comes back to the ‘contemporary fiction/thriller with funny bits type of thing’ I mentioned earlier. I knew I could write, but I was mistakenly assuming that whatever I wrote would be great, just because I was writing it. That the rules didn’t apply.
The advice that went with it was frighteningly simple. ‘Just tell a story. That’s enough. And choose a genre and aim yourself at it like a ground to air missile.’
So, I did. I’d always loved crime. Why not, I thought?
A year later, I started getting shortlisted for competitions. Some of them, like the Exeter Novel Prize, were very prestigious. I had my first brushes with literary agents as a result.
It wasn’t all plain sailing from there. There were other obstacles; changes in lifestyle, the juggling of commitments, all the stuff every writer has to deal with. Oh, and a pandemic of course.
But I kept telling the story.
Earlier this year, I got a publication deal with Sharpe Books. My Crime Fiction novel, The Trauma Pool, first in a series, is the result. I’m really proud of it.
What they did next...
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