The journey of a novel: Snakeskins

I hope you’re all managing in these strangest of times. After the first two weeks of lockdown and homeschooling, my brain’s starting to come alive again, little by little, by which I mean I’m writing again.

I’ll have updates about my next novel, Hope Island, very soon – but for now here’s a turning-back of the clocks by almost a year, to my last novel, Snakeskins. The article below was originally intended to feature in BSFA Focus, but after a mix-up it’s now without a home, so I thought I’d put it up here. It’s an overview of the writing and route to publication, which may be of most interest to upcoming writers.


Beginnings and false starts

In July 2015 I noted the following idea in a Word document:

Instead of the body’s cells gradually being replaced every 7–10 years, it all happens in an instant. This produces a ‘snakeskin’ version of yourself that is able to live independently, for a time. Somebody living a full life might produce eight Snakeskins, each of which continue to live for a short period after being ‘discarded’.

It sounded a rich idea, and even had a title built in. I began writing a story about a teenage girl experiencing her first ‘shedding’, roughly coinciding with her entry to adulthood. The result was… all right. I liked the depiction of the shedding ceremony well enough, but the aftermath felt too brief, constrained by the short story format. I had concentrated on this aspect: Perhaps Snakeskins tend not to be inhibited because they know they have limited time to live. Are they therefore more effective people? But this seemed only one possible repercussion, and more occurred to me over the following days. I wrote this list – the first item no doubt informed by the fact that I was considering quitting my job at the time:

Pros of Snakeskins:

  • You might be able to convince your Snakeskin to do your day job for you
  • Someone to confide in, who understands you entirely
  • Rejuvenation?
  • Sheddings represent important milestones in life, especially the first one

Cons:

  • Can’t necessarily control or even relate to your Snakeskin
  • Unwanted responsibility for someone else
  • Interruption to normal life
  • Desperately sad – like caring for someone with terminal illness

The short story had been vague about the world in which the characters existed. I began to wonder about aspects that might affect wider society. Had people always produced Snakeskins? Did everyone produce them? Did the process have some scientific basis, or was it essentially magic? How would Snakeskins expire – an ordinary death, or something stranger?

Continue reading The journey of a novel: Snakeskins

MACHINERIES OF MERCY to be reprinted

My young adult SF novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, was first published in November 2018. It’s about young offenders trapped in a virtual-reality prison modelled after a sleepy English village. It’s creepy and fun!

It was originally published by ChiZine. In late 2019 various revelations came to light about ChiZine’s business practices, which turned out to be… well, all sorts of awful. I won’t summarise them here – you can find various accounts by googling, or start with the Writer Beware overview. While I wasn’t affected as profoundly as many other writers – just a series of very long delays between acceptance and publication – I’ve yet to receive a single royalty statement, and who knows whether that’ll happen now. It goes without saying: please don’t buy copies of this edition.

But – good news! First off, I’ve now regained rights to publication of the book. Secondly, and more importantly, I’ve signed a contract with the wonderful Luna Press, and a new edition of the novel will be published in Autumn 2020. I’ve worked with Luna Press before on my first story collection, and they’re friendly, professional and just all-round excellent.

I’ve updated the MACHINERIES OF MERCY page on this site – where you’ll also find a Spotify soundtrack to the book to act as a teaser for the new edition – and you can read my introduction to the many influences on the novel on the Luna Press blog. More info soon, including a new cover!

New Year roundup

The Pea by Tim MajorIt’s been a good start to 2020. I’ve read a lot, watched good films, Hope Island is done and dusted and ready for May 2020 publication, and I’ve finished the first draft of my Victorian novel and now I’m into the second pass. A few random nice writer things have cropped up recently, so I thought I’d gather them all here, mainly so I don’t forget any of them myself:

  • I wrote a short Victorian-era coda to ‘The Princess and the Pea’ for Fudoki Magazine, which specialises in myth, folklore and fairytales. You can read it here.
  • Snakeskins has been longlisted in the Best Novel category of the BSFA Awards,  and also my short story ‘A Crest of a Wave’ (published in Shoreline of Infinity #15) in Best Shorter Fiction. Julia Lloyd is longlisted in Best Artwork for her wonderful Snakeskins cover, too.
  • On the Ginger Nuts of Horror site, Jim McLeod picked And the House Lights Dim as one of his favourite collections of 2019.
  • Des Lewis reviewed the Pareidolia anthology on his Gestalt Real-Time Reviews site. Among other things, he said of my story, ‘What Can You Do About a Man Like That?’ that ‘Reading this story was like experiencing a classic Ingmar Bergman film.’
  • There’s a lovely teaser write-up of Hope Island in the Titan Books ‘Looking ahead to 2020’ article.

My Writing Year 2019

Snakeskins Titan bauble

I’m happy to say that this year I’ve written more words than in any previous year – 182,000 words, which is a great deal more than my previous record of 133k last year. However, I only spent 30-odd more hours writing this year (282 hours in total), so in fact the high word count is probably more reflective of the fact that I’ve done a lot of drafting and little editing in 2019.

I wrote:

  • Universal Language – Martian mystery novella (45,000 words), currently out with publishers for consideration
  • Four short stories, one of which was commissioned for an as-yet unannounced anthology
  • 85,000 words of my work-in-progress novel, a Victorian fantasy
  • 16,000 words and synopsis as a sample of a meta SF novel

Other achievements this year included:

  • delivering my first academic paper: ‘Aspects of the Gothic and the Uncanny in Les Vampires (1915–16)’ at the Tales of Terror conference on Gothic, horror and weird short fiction at the University of Warwick
  • running workshop sessions at Edge-Lit, FantasyCon and at York Library
  • not freaking out during a joint event with Claire North at Cymera Festival in Edinburgh

And some of my work was published:

  • Snakeskins – my SF thriller novel about clones and identity was published by Titan in May, and had a lovely reception among the UK genre writing community, plus it was positively reviewed in e.g. Interzone and SciFiNow and was picked by the Financial Times as one of their books of the summer
  • And the House Lights Dim – my first collection of weird short stories, themed around homes and families, which received positive reviews e.g. in Storgy and Black Static
  • The collection featured three previously unpublished stories:
    • ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ – weird horror short story about the fears of a sentient house for its occupants
    • ‘The Forge’ – weird short story about a man who overlays his rival’s brain patterns onto his own, with unwanted results
    • ‘Honey spurge’ – SF short story about the devastation caused by household plants
  • ‘The Bath House’ – weird horror short story about a peculiar cleansing ritual with a shady purpose, in Twice-Told anthology (ed. C.M. Muller) themed around doppelgängers
  • ‘What Are We Going To Do With You?’ – YA horror short story about Capgras syndrome, in Subliminal Reality anthology
  • ‘Hangers-on’ – weird horror short story about fears of parenthood and plastic limbs in a holdall, in The Shadow Booth Vol 3 (ed. Dan Coxon)
  • ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ – SF short story about the purchase of sleep credits on the black market, in Synth #2 (ed. C.M. Muller)
  • ‘A Crest of a Wave’ – SF short story about a married couple celebrating their anniversary on the Martian coast, in Shoreline of Infinity, Issue 15
  • ‘What Can You Do About A Man Like That?’ – weird horror short story about toxic masculinity and aural hauntings, Pareidolia anthology (ed. James Everington & Dan Howarth)
  • Also, five of my older stories were reprinted (as well as 12 reprints in my collection), including one, ‘Throw Caution’, selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2018 (NewCon Press)

One other milestone this year – I finally passed the 1 million words mark. It was always an arbitrary target, but when I started out in 2012 it seemed unimaginable that I’d stick at writing fiction for this long and this consistently, and I’m proud that I have. Right now, there seems no danger of me slowing down, so I don’t feel the need for a second million words-ometer.

This year it’s been a little unnerving writing a novel that doesn’t yet have a home and therefore may never be published, after the pleasant experience of writing Hope Island in 2018 as part of a two-book deal. Added to this, my current work-in-progress is knottier than any of my previous novels, mainly because it’s required a lot of historical research in several different areas. But I think it’s good, and I hope it’ll find a home next year.

Looking ahead to more certain aspects of 2020, I have three new short stories already lined up for publication, plus a reprint. Three of these are important publications to me for different reasons – more about those in the new year…

…and my second Titan Books novel, Hope Island, will be published in May 2020, which is something for me to look forward to and dread at the same time. It’s about parenthood, creepy island kids and strange aural phenomena, and it gets quite weird.

Hope you all had productive and happy years too, and here’s to the next year and decade!

*Thanks to the Titan marketing team for the photo of the Snakeskins-inspired bauble.

Favourite albums of 2019

Drones

 

 

 

 

 

Goodness, what a lot of good drone albums there were this year! The Sacrificial Code by Kali Malone is a towering achievement – almost two hours of austere, subtly shifting pipe organ drones that slip me into a liminal space the moment they begin. I’ve listened to Genera – Live at AB Salon, Brussels by Bana Haffar more than any other album this year and still I understand it very little, but find it totally absorbing, strange and inspiring. The Gaelic smallpipe drones of The Reeling by Brighde Chaimbeul are utterly stunning – it’s an album that I’ve returned to far more than I’d expected on first listen. Bioluminescence by Shorelights is a far more manufactured confection, but there’s an organic element to the pulses, bird calls and wind beneath the surface. I can’t get enough of it. The field recordings of Vegetal Negatives by Marja Ahti are far more comprehensible, but conjure a soundscape that’s no less weird and no less hypnotic. Kimberlin (Original Soundtrack) by Abul Mogard continues Mogard’s incredible run of form, no less crucial and enveloping than any of his non-soundtrack work. Futuro (Music for the Waldorf Project) by Not Waving is an arresting soundtrack for literally anything you might be doing, and which sounds utterly different on each listen, as if the recording might respond to one’s mood. The title track of Epistasis by Maria w Horn, with its live string quartet and brooding – is it a harmonium? – is the standout track of a standout album. Traveller on the Road by Skin Crime recalls the most dread-filled moments of David Lynch movies, and sits well alongside other Hospital Productions artists such as Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement. Industry / Water by Michael Gordon / Jonny Greenwood  is the best release so far from Greenwood’s Octatonic label, as much a drone record as modern classical, and bodes well for future releases. Pyroclasts by Sunn O))) is awesome in the most awe-filled sense of the word. Pale Bloom by Sarah Davachi is another wonderful album from the Californian artist – particularly the 21-minute final track, which brings us all the way back to the organ dirge of Kali Malone.

Propulsive weird jazz and minimal techno

 

 

 

 

 

That’s a valid category, isn’t it? Atto IV by Vladimir Tarasov is an astounding album of jazz riffs and pulses that recall one of my favourite Oren Ambarchi albums, Quixotism. The man himself is present on Oglon Day by Oren Ambarchi, Mark Fell, Will Guthrie, Sam Shalabi, which delivers dizzying overlapping rhythms and a sense of huge regret at not seeing the performance live. Pink Nothing by Tom Richards, performed on an emulation of Daphne Oram’s unfinished ‘Mini Oramics’ machine, is maddeningly hypnotic. Triumvirate by Carter Tutti Void isn’t quite up to the level of majesty as their Transverse release, but it’s still ace. I by Föllakzoid is an unremitting forward march into the alien unknown.

Voices

 

 

 

 

 

All My People by Maria Somerville is comfortably my favourite vocal album of the year, neatly stepping in for the lack of new Grouper. 2020 by Richard Dawson retains Dawson’s lyrical precision and his wonderful voice, but lacks the lunacy of his previous releases. Arrival by Fire! Orchestra is more accessible than the band’s recent releases and features a surprising amount of vocals. ANIMA by Thom Yorke is assured and full of earworms. The Age of Immunology by Vanishing Twin is joyous and undemanding despite its complexity. Look Up Sharp by Carla dal Forno is strikingly familiar hauntology, an album half-remembered from childhood. The Envoy by Gavilán Rayna Russom is majestic and deeply weird, and features Cosey Fanni Tutti on vocals and arrangements by Peter Zummo.

Compilations and reissues

 

 

 

 

Three Highlife albums provided me with lots of happiness – the first being Hitsville Re-Visited by Ebo Taylor, Pat Thomas, Uhuru Yenzu, also from 1982, the most joyous recording I’ve heard all year. However, the more overly funky Control by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & Zantoda Mark III, from 1980, and Grupo Pilon: Leite Quente Funaná de Cabo Verde by Grupo Pilon, a collection of 1980s recordings of Electro-Funaná from West Africa’s Cabo Verde Islands, give Ebo a run for his money. Oren Ambarchi rears his head again, curating a vast selection of experimental, drone and unclassifiable recordings from his own record label for the compilation Black Truffle At 10. The rerelease of Michael O’Shea by Michael O’Shea from 1982 is a revelation – Indo-European voodoo played on, according to Boomkat: a hybrid of a zelochord and a sitar, made on a wooden door salvaged in Munich, and with the crucial addition of electric pick-ups and the ‘Black Hole Space Box’. Hissing Theatricals by Tapes, a rerelease of the 2009 dub album, is wonderful, as are the 1980s synth post-punk experiments contained on Beside Herself by Michele Mercure.

Two guest blog posts

Two guest blog posts popped up online during the last week:

First off, Book Stewards put together a really nice Q&A, covering reasons I began writing, happy accidents that resulted in publications, upcoming projects and the elusive ‘Tim Major thing’. I also got to recommend a load of my favourite recent reads. You can read the full article here.

Secondly, Speculative Chic were nice enough to ask me to write an article for their ‘My Favourite Things’ series – I chose the SF, horror and classic films that are floating my boat at the moment. Here it is.

Black Static reviews ‘And the House Lights Dim’

The current issue of Black Static features a terrific review of my short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM. It’s insightful and detailed (a page and a half long!), and enthusiastic and kind. It made me cry a little. It includes careful analysis of each story in the collection, and ends with the following summation:

And the House Lights Dim is an immensely worthwhile read. A liquorice allsorts of genre and theme which nonetheless coheres thanks to the enduring prose style and strong sense of voice… If you like your stories strange, eerie and thought-provoking, this one is for you.”

You can find more details about the collection here.

My FantasyCon 2019 schedule

I’ll be attending FantasyCon in Glasgow this weekend, and this is what I’ll be getting up to:

Launch: The Shadow Booth
Friday 5pm
Launch of Shadow Booth Vol 4, edited by Dan Coxon, with readings by Robert Shearman, Gary Budden and Tim Major.

Panel: The 13th Doctor
Saturday 12pm
The Doctor is back and she’s better than ever! What are the best moments in series 11? What do we love about Whittaker’s Doctor? How has the series riffed on existing concepts but explored them in new ways? And what kind of stories do we want to see next?
David Thomas Moore, Mark Morris, Tim Major, Una McCormack

And the House Lights DimLaunch: Luna Press
Saturday 1pm
Launch of the Harvester series of single-author collections by Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Nick Wood and Tim Major.
This is the official launch of my collection And the House Lights Dim, which was published in July this year.

Workshop: Short Fiction Submissions
Sunday 12pm
Alongside my BFS Horizons co-editor, Shona Kinsella, I’ll be running a workshop about how to make the best possible impression when sending short stories to editors.

…and then I’ll be attending the banquet for the first time – exciting!

Les Vampires by Tim Major…and then I’ll be attending the British Fantasy Awards for the first time – also exciting!
(Not least because my monograph about the 1915 film Les Vampires is on the shortlist for Best Non-Fiction – though it’s up against some fine competition, any of whom I’d be delighted to see win. Still, the nomination is a great excuse to finally stick around long enough to see the awards presented.)

Another first: I’ll be staying in the convention hotel. Hopefully this will mean a more flexible approach to planning my days, and less lugging around everything needed from morning until night. And more chance to bump into people and hang around with people I like, which surely is the point of FantasyCon in the first place.

HOPE ISLAND cover reveal

My next novel, HOPE ISLAND, has a cover! Once again, it’s by the wonderful Julia Lloyd, who also designed the SNAKESKINS cover.

The novel features a remote island, creepy children, ethereal cave songs and, after a fairly quiet start, quite a lot of dead bodies.

Hope Island by Tim MajorThe Barnes & Noble blog hosted the cover reveal – if you click through to the announcement you’ll also find a short extract to whet your appetite…

HOPE ISLAND will be published by Titan Books in the UK and USA in May 2020.

New interview (with me)

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction have published a new interview with me today. It’s quite a wide-ranging one, covering writing habits, recent publications, my work editing the British Fantasy Society’s BFS Horizons, as well as a minor revelation about my previous brief sideline as a bassist in a band that was actually pretty good. You can read the full interview here.

My WorldCon schedule

Dublin WorldCon

I’m going to be quite busy at Dublin WorldCon in a couple of weeks’ time! Here’s my schedule:

Panel: When good futures go bad: dystopia as horror fiction
Friday 16 Aug 2019, 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Room-1 (CCD)
It’s not just for science fiction any more! How do horror dystopias differ from those in SF, and what are some examples, old and new, that we should be reading?
Prof David Farnell (M), Tim Major, Pat Cadigan, Emil Hjörvar Petersen, Nina Allan

Panel: Hammer Horror
Friday 16 Aug 2019, 14:30 – 15:20, Odeon 3 (Point Square Dublin)
Terry Pratchett, Guillermo del Toro and writers of Doctor Who (during the Tom Baker period) have all evinced admiration and  inspiration from a set of horror flicks produced by a long dormant British film producer Horror Films from the 1950s and 1960s. Our panellists look at what makes them so enamoured of their productions.
Genevieve Cogman (M), The John Vaughan, Tim Major, Helena Nash, Mr Grzegorz Aleksander Biały

Panel: Rural pagans, haunted forests: folk horror revival
Saturday 17 Aug 2019, 11:00 – 11:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)
With its roots in folklore and rural life, ‘folk horror’ has enjoyed a huge resurgence in the last few years. What is folk horror, and why is it suddenly so popular? Is it nostalgia-based, or are there new anxieties at work that have driven its rise?
Tim Major (M), Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Tuttle, Neil Williamson

NewCon Press book launch
Saturday 17 Aug 2019, 17.30 – 18.30, Point Square: Warehouse 2 – Performance space
Inc. launch of Best of British Science Fiction 2019, which features my story, ‘Throw Caution’.

Les Vampires shortlisted for British Fantasy Award

This morning I was delighted to discover that my monograph on Les Vampires has been shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award, in the Best Non-Fiction category!

I’m very flattered, and surprised – and as always, I’m grateful to Neil Snowdon of Electric Dreamhouse Press for giving me the opportunity to write the book.

British Fantasy SocietyThe full list of shortlisted works is well worth checking out. More than anything, what strikes me is the reminder/realisation that I know so many of the shortlisted writers, editors and artists personally, from various genre events, and how much of a pleasure it is to see them achieving and progressing so swiftly in their careers – and being so supportive while doing so.

Find out more information about my Les Vampires monograph here.

Book birthday: AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM

And the House Lights Dim - Tim MajorThis came around fast… I’m happy to say that my first short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, is available as of today! It’s published by Luna Press and is billed as strange stories about houses, homes and families.

Here’s something I wrote about the collection when it was first announced:

AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM is my first collection of short stories, which were written over a three-year period. They’re pretty diverse, spanning weird fiction, horror and SF – but I confess that when I wrote them they seemed more diverse than they really are. It was only recently that I realised just how prevalent particular themes have been in my writing: houses, homes and family.

Perhaps it’s no surprise. The earliest of the stories was written when my wife was pregnant with our first child; one of the novellas was written in a mad hurry in the weeks before his birth; nowadays I write in a fog of fatigue due to my second child’s sleepless nights. I think about family constantly and as a freelance editor I’m trapped in my home for the greater part of every day.

In this collection are stories about a sentient house overprotective of its new occupants, a supernatural Greenland shark that attacks a family via sound, a married couple alone on a lengthy space flight, two young girls who live in isolation and in fear of the world beyond their walls, a camping trip that turns a family feral, a post-apocalyptic Center Parcs, a man who has defragmented his mind and another who splices a rival’s brain patterns onto his own.

Most of the stories have been published in various places, including Interzone, Not One of Us, The Literary Hatchet and anthologies published by Fox Spirit, Jurassic London and Hic Dragones. ‘Carus & Mitch’ was previously published as a standalone novella by Omnium Gatherum and was shortlisted for a This Is Horror Award in 2015. People have been very nice about it: Lynda Rucker said it was a ‘compelling, unconventional page-turner… blending a John Wyndham-esque melancholy with a dose of existential despair’. Adam Roberts called it ‘punchy and scary and tense and genuinely moving’ and James Everington at This is Horror said it was ‘an intimate, original, and character-driven take on the post-apocalyptic genre’, all of which made me feel awfully proud.

One thing I neglected to mention in that description are the stories that are new to the collection: O Cul-de-Sac!, The Forge and Honey Spurge. I’m particularly proud of O Cul-de-Sac!, the 10k-word story that opens the collection – though I’m also nervous on its behalf, as if I’m forcing it out into the world rather it being there on its own merits. It’s an unusual story, written once I recognised the theme of the collection – it’s narrated by a sentient house who is proud and then wary of its new occupants.

You can buy AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM direct from Luna Press or from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

By the way, the beautiful cover image is by Daniele Serra. Do check out his incredible work.

My Edge-Lit 8 schedule

This weekend I’ll be heading to the Edge-Lit convention, a one-day genre writing event on Sat 13th July in Derby. It’s always a terrific event, and incredibly friendly. I’m really looking forward to it.

In fact, Edge-Lit was the first writing convention I ever attended, back in 2015, after I’d published only one novella and a couple of short stories. I was very nervous and hung around at the backs of rooms, but the few people I spoke to were lovely. I found the panels and workshops particularly encouraging – they provided me with some useful expectations as I started out on what would hopefully become a writing career.

And I suppose I did end up with a writing career – or at least, I’m still on that trajectory. So, it feels like important milestone that on Saturday I’ll be attending Edge-Lit as an invited guest, appearing on stage, at launches and conducting a workshop.

My workshop is intended to pay back the favour of that help I received when I first attended. It’s titled ‘Routes to Becoming a Novelist’ and is aimed at new writers – I’ll be discussing a sort of apprenticeship route to building up a writing CV.

Here’s my schedule:

10am Cinema 1
Short Cuts: Does a Background in Short Fiction Help You Build a Career as a Novelist?
Panel – with Simon Bestwick, Zen Cho(Chair), Jan Edwards, Tim Lebbon, Tim Major

11am Digital Studio (1st floor)
Workshop – Routes to Becoming a Novelist
Intended for writers at the beginning of their career – see description above.

2pm Participation Space (ground floor)
Shadow Booth Launch – with Tim Major, Robert Shearman and Aliya Whiteley
Featuring readings and discussion about weird fiction, led by editor Dan Coxon.

3pm Cinema 2
Black Shuck Books launches PAREIDOLIA , edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth and THE FINITE by Kit Power
(I have a story in the Pareidolia anthology)

6pm Participation Space (ground floor)
Readings – Anne Charnock and Tim Major
As well as reading a snippet from Snakeskins, I’ll probably read from my short story collection, And the House Lights Dim, which will be published 4 days before Edge-Lit.

Do you have an Edge-Lit ticket yet? You should come. If you do, please do come and say hello at any time – particularly if you’re a new writer looking for the same kind of reassurance that I needed when I first attended four years ago.

Another SNAKESKINS review and a ‘best of’ pick

I figured that the review cycle for SNAKESKINS was probably at an end, but it seems I was wrong. Last week the novel was reviewed in the Sun newspaper, of all places, and very favourably too! Take a look at the (slightly grainy, sorry) scan =>

Not only that, but following the Financial Times review of the novel at the end of May, the same newspaper has now selected SNAKESKINS as one of its best books of the summer! It’s only one of four SF titles selected, alongside Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful, MG Wheaton’s Emily Eternal and Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. It includes only a short summary of the book, but featuring on this list, with those authors, is something that makes me feel enormously proud.

A sobering, startling satire set in an alternate UK where a privileged few live lives that are longer and healthier than most by means of generating clones of themselves — “Skins” — which instantly disintegrate. When Caitlin Hext’s Skin doesn’t die as planned, terrible truths about her world come slithering into the light.

You can see the growing list of reviews for SNAKESKINS, and read blog posts and listen to the book soundtrack etc, here.

Cymera Festival

Claire North & Tim MajorAll told, the inaugural Cymera Festival in Edinburgh was a triumph. Organiser Ann Landmann did a terrific job of booking writers, setting up events and apparently managing to keep her cool throughout. I got a chance to speak at length with lots of SFF authors I’d only met in passing before, and hang out with the Titan Books editorial and marketing team, who are all ace.

And it was a personal triumph, too. The event I was scheduled to take part in – a discussion with Claire North (or Cat Webb, to dispense with the pseudonym) – was a far bigger event than I’ve ever done before. I mean that quite literally – we were onstage in the main theatre, with stage mics and everything. But the festival was so casual and friendly, as was Cat/Claire when we spoke in the Green Room, that I found myself more relaxed and confident than at previous events.

And I think the actual discussion went well, too! I certainly enjoyed it, Cat/Claire’s opinions are always fascinating and her recent novel 84K is an absolute marvel, and I think I was mostly coherent and mostly on topic. I so appreciated people stumping up for the event – most would have paid for the event individually rather than as part of a weekend pass – and a bunch bought copies of Snakeskins and asked me to sign them, too. All in all, I was allowed to feel like a Real Author, which was very exciting.

I’m told that Cymera will return next year, so watch out for more details – I highly recommend coming along.

SNAKESKINS reviewed in the Financial Times

This is a cheering end to publication month… SNAKESKINS has been reviewed by James Lovegrove for the Financial Times, and he seems to have enjoyed it very much! Here’s the final paragraph of the review:

“Tim Major masterfully weaves his plot strands together, studding Snakeskins with images of duality and metamorphosis to create a dark and compelling vision of corruption and conspiracy with a subtly satirical edge.”

You can read the full review online here.

Update: It was also published in the FT Weekend edition on 1st June! Click the image to enlarge.

 

Hannah’s Bookshelf radio interview

Last week I was interviewed by Hannah Kate for her show Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. I really enjoyed it, and felt far more comfortable than I expected – it was a long, detailed conversation, but there always seemed plenty to discuss, which has done wonders for my confidence with regards to forthcoming public appearances.

We talked about my recent novel Snakeskins, my upcoming short story collection, And the House Lights Dim and my non-fiction book about Les Vampires – and also my preoccupation with houses, nostalgia and baked beans in fiction.

I also picked my books to cling onto after the apocalypse: John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, John Updike’s collected Rabbit novels and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

If you fancy listening to the interview, it’s available to stream on Mixcloud.

SNAKESKINS – two weeks in the world (almost)

SNAKESKINS, my novel about a group of people who produce spontaneous clones, was published by Titan Books on 7th May. That seems a long time ago now! Today marks the end of an intense and intensely fascinating period – a fortnight-long marketing blitz which involved huge numbers of book bloggers and Instagrammers posting information, snippets, Q&As, giveaways and responses to the book. It’s been unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past. As I noted in my previous blog post, it took me a while (that is, all of launch day, which I frittered refreshing webpages obsessively) to understand that this process didn’t directly involve me – though of course I’d generated interview responses and blog posts etc before the event.

Snakeskins Interzone review May19As I’d hoped, week two has been markedly more casual and enjoyable. As well as my easing up on the F5 key, this was also the week in which a greater number of reviews began to filter through – culminating with the new issue of Interzone popping through my letterbox yesterday. The Interzone review is very positive and I’ve been buzzing ever since I read it. The fact that the reviewer is so enthusiastic about the novel is incredible (‘unflinching characterisation and at times deadly prose’ … ‘he’s set the bar high if he’s going to top this’), but just as incredible is the fact that Interzone contains a full-page review of my novel at all. When I first started writing fiction in 2013, my stated ambition was to receive a rejection slip from Interzone. Seriously, a rejection slip, rather than publication, because it would signal that I was giving this writing thing a real shot. I was delighted with that rejection slip. Then the next year my first story was accepted for Interzone – my first big sale, and the moment when I felt like I might have something to offer as a writer. To have graduated to a full-page review of my new novel feels equally as significant a milestone.

So, that was a big moment. What else? I was tipped off that a full-page ad for the book appeared on the back cover of Locus magazine (the US genre trade mag), which is pretty ace (thank you, Titan!). But while I wait for more reactions from readers and reviewers, the main activity has been updates on various book blogs. On top of the interviews and guest posts I mentioned last week, these pieces were published this week:

Oh, and I recorded my first radio interview! If you’re in the Manchester area you can listen to me talk at length to Hannah Kate on her show, Hannah’s Bookshelf (Saturday 18th May, 2–4pm). After the broadcast I’ll share links to listen online. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, but I’ll be wincing in embarrassment when I listen to the show, no doubt.

And there have been more reviews. Here are just a few:

Snakeskins has so much more in it than you might first imagine. It’s packed full of slowly revealed alternate history, it has mystery that unfolds at a great pace, and characters who aren’t superheroes but real people with believable motivations and personal stories. I read Snakeskins in one day because I couldn’t put it down, but the story, the world, and those who inhabit it will stay with me much, much longer.” Set the Tape

“Snakeskins is an excellently crafted and often horrifying look at identity and what it means to be human. … A keen look at human nature and the workings of a corrupt government” Pythia Reads

“I really went into this one not knowing what to expect, and ended up devouring it in two days! It’s fast-paced, the characters are well developed, it’s weird, and it’s totally British … I think folks who are into things like The X-Files or Orphan Black would love this!” Grimdark Dad

“This is an intriguing SciFi conspiracy novel which, as with all good SciFi, uses high concept ideas to explore prescient issues about our society’s treatment of people, and it’s bloody good too.” The Hebridean Reader

There are a lot more reviews besides those – I’m doing my best to collect them all on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page.

On top of this, I’ve been keeping an eye (okay, checking twice a day) on the Goodreads page for the book. It’s looking okay, I think! As of today there are 20 ratings, with a mean average of exactly 4 stars. If you do read the novel, I’d be grateful if you could post an honest review on Goodreads and, even better, Amazon. I’m told that amazing things happen if you get to 50 reviews, and I daren’t even imagine what that might be.

So, in short, all still going well. I suspect I’ll feel slightly adrift next week, without the tangible evidence of book blog updates. I’ve have to keep reminding myself that I have proof that people are reading the book right now, because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

SNAKESKINS – its first few days in the world

Well… It’s been a dizzying week. SNAKESKINS was published on Tuesday! It’s in hundreds of bookshops in the UK and the USA – I have photographic evidence! It’s being read right now! People seem to like it!

If I’m honest, I didn’t much enjoy publication day itself. My jittery anxiety translated into me checking my phone every 10 minutes for updates (and there were updates, every time). Wednesday was a bit better. By Thursday I was in the groove.

Because all that goodwill I mentioned a few days ago? It seems that it wasn’t just talk. To begin with, people are buying the book. They’re walking into bookshops or adding it to their Amazon cart. Phew. Furthermore, people who’ve read it seem to have genuinely enjoyed the experience. Whether all of this leads to more sales and more readers, I have no idea, and it’s out of my control. But things are still going as well as I could possibly hope. I keep trying to take snapshots of the current state of things, and the snapshots keep encouraging me.

The most visible evidence that the book is real and out there is the social media promotional tour going on right now. I’m a newbie to Instagram, but there seems a lot of traffic surrounding the book, ably orchestrated by the Titan marketing team, who are amazing. Part of learning to go with the flow this week has been making a decision that the Instagram activity doesn’t need to involve me, and perhaps is better off for me watching but not participating – as mixed in with the Q&As, giveaways and terrific photos are reviews and comments. I’m applying the age-old author rule of not responding to reviews, even when they’re positive. (But do you know what? They really are positive reviews, hooray!) If you follow #snakeskinstour or #titanbooks, you’ll see what’s cooking. The photos alone warm my heart.

Book blogs are more my comfort zone, and there’s a lot of blog activity too. Here are some handy links to everything that’s been published so far on this two-week social media blitz:

And there’s lots more to come!

Snakeskins blog tourFinally, reviews… any author’s waking nightmare. Except these are really positive! Here’s a taster:

“A heart stopping & thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances & challenge your perceptions of acceptance.” (5 stars) Paperbacks and Pinot

“I read a lot of YA, yet this adult SF novel is by far one of the most convincing portrayals of burgeoning maturity I’ve ever read. … It’s a remarkably thoughtful consideration of identity and humanity, as the best sci-fi thrillers invariably are.” The Frumious Consortium

“…bizarre, and deeply resonant … glimpses of Adrian Barnes and Atwood at her very weirdest … Somehow otherworldly and yet so incredibly human, politically relevant but also touching on universal themes of identity and mortality, Snakeskins is a novel I will be thinking about for a very long time.”  Folded Paper Foxes

“It’s an unusual setup for an intricate political thriller that coils in on itself, tightening the tension as it circles toward satisfyingly shocking answers.” Barnes & Noble blog

So… I’m more than happy with the ways things are going. Here’s to lots more anxiety and (hopefully) more pleasant surprises next week, as more reviews come in. I’m doing my best to collect articles and reviews on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page. Or you could just skip all that and buy a copy? Just saying.

Snakeskins Titan newsletter banner

SNAKESKINS publication day!

SNAKESKINS is published today! This is my grateful and baffled and happy and anxious face.

Tim Major - Snakeskins publication day 1Thanks to everyone who’s bought a copy already or shared promos or just been generally supportive, to the authors who provided blurbs, to Titan editorial and marketing, to Rose. I’ve no idea how it’ll pan out from here on in, but the book has had the best possible start in life. Thank you!

Find out more about SNAKESKINS here.

SNAKESKINS social media tour

The day is almost upon us… SNAKESKINS will be published in the UK and US tomorrow!

Snakeskins blog tour

To mark the occasion there will be a ten-day book blog tour, starting today – two blogs every day. I know, crazy!

First up today is my guest blog post at Bibliosanctum, about a SNAKESKINS soundtrack to an imagined adaptation. It includes doubles, identity issues, an isolated Britain thirty years behind ours. There are full explanations of each track choice in the article, and the soundtrack’s intended to work as a primer to the book too – no spoilers, I promise!

Snakeskins Instagram tourIf you’re one of the really cool kids, there’s also an Instagram tour – follow #snakeskinstour to see all updates. The first post is a mini-review, and it’s a very positive one, phew!

Finally, one of the book blog reviews went live already, on Paperbacks and Pinot, who said that ‘Snakeskins is a heart stopping and thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances and challenge your perceptions of acceptance.’

Tim Major – writer & editor

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