The good news is that I have a title for the third book in my Colony trilogy. Harvest of Scorn has grown on me since it first occurred. It suits the story, in which a new age entrepreneur accesses a variety of grants and some substantial lottery funding to construct the New Hope Experience. It’s a resort for literary minded eco-tourists who like zip-wires, rock climbing and a bit of creative reflection viewing a spectacular Hebridean sunset as they sip an evening cocktail. Experience mastermind Felix Baxter doesn’t believe in bad luck, ill-fate or anything really ominous. That’s to say he doesn’t at the outset of the story, which to say the least, is a cautionary tale involving Ruthie Gillespie, Edie Chambers, Patsy Lassiter and the rest of the usual crew, not all of whom endure until the end. You might shed a tear. I know I did, writing it. Oh, and Rachel Ballantyne’s there. And she’s not really a character disposed to welcome or tolerate change. There’s not much she does tolerate on New Hope, frankly.
The bad news is that you’re going to have to be a bit patient waiting for it. Earning money has become a more immediate priority than finishing the novel. I’m doing some features journalism and some creative writing tutoring and just can’t devote the time to it the story needs to get it ready for publication quickly. I love fiction, but this is a case where real life – and real life priorities – has intervened. Please do be patient. Without wishing to be boastful, I think it will be worth the wait. Eventually…
In other news, because I’m not of the download generation (and they’ve stopped doing CDs), I’d never heard my David Rintoul-read audiobooks from The Memory of Trees on. Last week Audible very kindly sent me half a dozen credits so I could listen to my more recent books. It only took me about four hours (and the charitable intervention of my son) to work out how to get a book onto my phone. I’m now halfway through David’s narration of Trees and bloody hell, he’s a brilliant reader. His delivery is so atmospheric I forget it’s stuff Ive written and get really caught up in the tale. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have him do them and long may he continue. They teach me what I could have done better – but I certainly couldn’t do any better than him.
Two new audiobooks out this week. They’re Dark Resurrection (the second novel of my Colony trilogy) and The Going and the Rise, one of my Jericho Society themed novellas, a story close to my heart for a number of reasons. For one thing it’s written in the first-person, which I don’t do very often. And it sees the fictive debut of Ruthie Gillespie, a character I intend to feature a lot more in my fiction going forward. She plays a significant part also in Dark Resurrection and features prominently in Harvest of Scorn, the third book in my Colony trilogy, on which I’m currently doing the final edit. That’s a working title, by the way. It might yet change if the lovely people at my publisher Ipso take a violent dislike to it.
Audible, publisher of my audiobooks, have asked me to film an interview to be uploaded onto Youtube and a variety of other platforms. If he can fit it into his schedule and he’s amenable, they would like my regular reader David Rintoul to participate. I have to say that his reading of my stories has enhanced them massively and done wonders for my audiobook sales. I’ve never met him, but he did phone me a few years ago to say how much he’d enjoyed Brodmaw Bay and to make a suggestion about Richard Penmarrick, my West Country squire in that story. I’d written that Penmarrick had no trace of an accent. David said he would sound much more sinister with just the hint of a Cornish burr. How right he was. He’s a very busy actor but I do hope he can find the time to take part in the interview. I’d like to meet him in person and I’d like to thank him in person for the wonderful job of interpreting my stories he does. I’ve been blessed where he’s concerned.
After finessing Harvest of Scorn, I have my third Jericho Society Novella to polish. It’s entitled The Boston Artifact and Ruthie’s in that one too. And when that’s had its final bit of brushing up, she’ll get her first stand-alone novel, a story which has nothing to do with New Hope Island that’s been taking shape in my mind for a few years now. That’s my process. I write fast. The Colony was written in a Shaftesbury cottage in under eight weeks. But I cogitate for ages before the frenzy of two-fingered typing ever begins.
In other news, I bought my daughter a good pair of headphones this week as her reward for being so brave about her recent surgery. She’s musically gifted and deserved a better pair than the ones I got her a year ago that were anyway on their way out. This upgrade was achieved with the help of my son’s Amazon account. He ordered them, I gave him the cash. Naturally a surcharge was involved; ‘You can’t spend that much on Avalon and not spend the same amount on me,’ Gabriel said, ‘it’s blatant favouritism.’ I didn’t really have the heart to argue it out.
Is Harvest of Scorn a good title for the third book in the Colony trilogy? You wouldn’t harvest much else amid the windswept, granite bleakness of New Hope. In this story a visionary entrepreneur (at least he thinks he’s a visionary) has a grandiose ambition for the island. But the island has at least one permanent resident hostile to intrusion, never mind the prospect of disruption and change. Little Rachel Ballantyne likes things just the way they are and the dark magic of the passing centuries has left her powerfully equipped to keep them that way.
Having told you a little bit about the plot, I’d be grateful for any feedback on that title…
‘Now I’m just a normal little blonde girl.’
My daughter Avalon came out with that simple sentence two days ago and though the words are plain enough, their implications are both huge and joyful. She had her genioplasty on Thursday of last week at Great Ormond Street. Despite all the pain and trauma and bleeding that followed, her operation was a total success. She was allowed home on Monday. The dressing came off at an appointment at the hospital on Wednesday. That night she celebrated by going out for a meal with her mum and brother. Afterwards she said it was the first time she could remember sitting in a restaurant without being stared at. Just how badly she was hurt by the deformity inflicted by her disease is only now becoming apparent. But this is a very encouraging first step in dealing with that and I’ve never seen her so contented. I spent two nights in GOSH over the strangest and most stressful Easter I’ve ever experienced. But I’m hardly complaining. The people there work miracles.
Writing-wise I’m concentrating on getting the third and final Colony novel completed, having received the first set of notes on it from my editor Sophie Wilson after a phone conversation about the book on Tuesday. Ever since completing it last year, I’ve wondered whether killing off one of my favourite major characters wouldn’t give the story more weight, direction and impact. When I mentioned this possible change to Sophie, she was ruthlessly enthusiastic. I’ll be sad orchestrating this particular exit, which is completely daft in one way because of all people, I should be the most aware it’s only fiction. But this is a decent and genuinely likeable character I’ve lived with for a long time and as silly as it might seem, I’ll really feel the loss. I’m not saying who it is, but I’ll be bound to miss their company.
Sophie wants a synopsis of the story incorporating the changes I intend to make. But I make my novels up as I go along. It’s always a bit of a tightrope walk in the sense that until I get to the safety of the other end, I’m never quite sure I will. Consequently I’ve never been able to write a synopsis until I’ve finished the book. This hasn’t really hampered me thus far. We’ll work something out and anyway I plan to have the re-written manuscript completed before the end of the month. I’m impatient to see the trilogy wrapped up, but want that done in a way that delivers maximum satisfaction to my readers. Those of you who’ve taken the time and trouble to read The Colony and Dark Resurrection obviously deserve no less than the best I can do. But two words of warning about the final trilogy installment on this lovely sunny spring morning; this one features something monstrous enough to have you groping for the light switch in the night. And before you get to the end, you might also find yourself reaching for the tissue box…