I’ve written a fair few articles to support the publication of Hope Island; they’ll be popping up around the internet during the next couple of weeks. The first two have appeared today:
The first is a big one for me: SF writer John Scalzi allowed me to write a ‘Big Idea’ piece for his ‘Whatever’ blog. I wrote about how parenthood can affect writing, and how I’ve managed to write despite parenthood, and the ways in which Hope Island is a product of my parental fears. Read the article here.
The second is a post I wrote for the wonderful Ginger Nuts of Horror website, about the development of Hope Island, from an initial attempt to write a straightforward, commercial novel, and ending with a moral: How can you spend 200 hours working on a novel and not introduce yourself in every scene, in every sentence? Read the article here.
Simon Bestwick was kind enough to invite me to take part in his series of lockdown interviews with writers. So, click on through to Simon’s website for talk of Doctor Who (and my thwarted attempt to win a Blue Peter badge), routes into writing, creativity during lockdown and a hint of my work-in-progress.
The Super Relaxed Fantasy Club were nice enough to ask me to do a reading – here’s the video, including an extract from Hope Island (available in the US now, and in the UK in 2 weeks!) and my lockdown reads. Bonus appearance of my favourite mug.
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.
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.”
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 interview over on Ginger Nuts of Horror today was in theory a five-minute one, but I’m pretty sure I stayed for longer than that… It covers SNAKESKINS, influences, recommendations, upcoming work, and a single sentence from my next novel, HOPE ISLAND.
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, 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.
As 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:
- Extract: Caitlin Hext’s shedding, hosted by Civilian Reader
- Extract: The museum of automata, hosted by The DreamCage
- Guest post: The Long Shadow of the Triffids, Angel Wings and Petticoats
- Interview (identity, Brexit, plotting and weird fiction), The Frumious Consortium
- Interview (influences, character quirks, upcoming projects), MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape
- Guest post: Top 10 doubles in film, Rising Shadow
- Extract: Celebrity Snakeskins, hosted by SciFiChick
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?
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:
- Guest post: A Snakeskins book soundtrack – including a Spotify playlist to accompany the novel, Bibliosanctum
- Book giveaway, Alice R Dempsey
- Q&A (writing habits, advice and current projects), More2Read
- Excerpt: the first shedding ceremony, Beauty in Ruins
- Guest post: Interview between Tim Major and his Snakeskin clone, Lina’s Reviews
- Book giveaway, Where There’s Ink There’s Paper
- Interview (influences, character quirks, upcoming projects), MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape
- Guest post: Snakeskins and starting points, Folded Paper Foxes
And there’s lots more to come!
“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.
The day is almost upon us… SNAKESKINS will be published in the UK and US tomorrow!
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!
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.’
SF Showcase recently interviewed me about my YA novel, Machineries of Mercy, as well as the upcoming Snakeskins and even a glimpse of the novel after that. The conversation covers the influence of John Wyndham, the original Westworld film and one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, ‘The Deadly Assassin’. Click here to read the interview.
Another post about music… The excellent writer and excellent person James Everington was kind enough to invite me to contribute an article to his ‘Music for Writers’ series on his website. I never turn down a chance to talk about music, and given that pretty much all of my current music listening is a background to writing or work, this theme plays to my interests. You can read the full article, and listen to selections, here.
(Note that Music to write to is distinct from Book soundtracks, which I create for each of my novellas and novels. See here for some of those.)
To celebrate its publication, I’ve written a guest blog post, which appeared today on the Sci-Fi Bulletin website. It’s titled ‘So, there are these giant alien slugs: The ‘elevator pitch’ as a writing tool’.
Alongside some writing advice, it includes a description of my pitch to Abaddon’s David Thomas Moore at my very first FantasyCon in 2015.
The Ginger Nuts of Horror website has published my contribution to its ‘Childhood Fears’ series, in which I dwell on the terror of the giant iron statue Talos in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963).
I’ve created book soundtracks for all of my longer fiction (novels and novellas, both published and as-yet-unpublished), partly as a way of consolidating the tone, partly as an indulgence and a pat on the back and partly, typically, as a distraction activity during the final draft. The idea is to provide a musical teaser before reading the novel, or a soundtrack of a theoretical film adaptation, but not simply a background playlist.
Today Ginger Nuts of Horror published my article about book soundtracks, including the rules of my nerdy game (yes, there are rules and no, I don’t always stick to them. I won’t repeat the rules here (because you can read the full article instead), or the stories behind some of the track choices, but I don’t think it’s bad form to repost the Spotify playlist:
I’m behind. The move to York was successful, securing broadband less so, but we’re here and I’m all operational again. Somehow, in the midst of the move I completed the final draft of my current novel, so there’s that.
Two reviews of You Don’t Belong Here have appeared online recently. The first is from Shoreline of Infinity, and is wonderfully positive throughout:
“This is not your average time-travel tale, then – well paced, with reveals all the way to the last page. For someone looking for something a little different, I’d recommend picking this up and giving it a go – and whilst this isn’t a book which invites a sequel, I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Tim Major’s work in future, especially if it brings this kind of fresh look to another sub-genre that can suffer from being a little predictable.”
The second is from Ginger Nuts of Horror. This one has me totally floored. While I’m taking this conclusion with a large pinch of salt, I’m also incredibly flattered:
“You Don’t Belong Here is a novel that dares to do something different with a well-worn concept, an intelligent idea carried off with great success, in years to come when people talk about great and influential time travel novels, this is one that should be mentioned along with the greats of the genre.”
Finally, I think I neglected to blog about my guest post on The Bookish Outsider, ‘Windows into the Soul’, which is about the recurrence of houses in all of my long fiction.
“Gaining a clear mental image of a location goes a long way towards ‘finding’ a story, in the same way that pinning down the characteristics of a protagonist is vital. Moreover, characters are shaped, in part, by their surroundings. Your home isn’t just an expression of yourself. It goes the other way, too. It changes you. It makes you.”
Phew, a fresh start. Actually, the arrival of 2017 is the first of a couple of fresh starts in quick succession for me – I’ll be moving house (and town) in mid-January, when I and my family will be packing up in Oxford and moving to York.
Still, this seems a good time to round up all the loose threads from the tail-end of last year…
You Don’t Belong Here
Firstly, another positive and thoughtful review for YOU DON’T BELONG HERE, this time from Rising Shadow. The reviewer summarises the novel as ‘delightfully different from the time travel novels that have been published recently’.
Also on Rising Shadow, you can read an interview with me, in which I discuss SF influences, failed novels, the Infinite Monkey Cage and gratefulness.
If you haven’t read YOU DON’T BELONG HERE yet, it’s currently available on Amazon for only £6.88 for the paperback or £6.54 for the ebook. Bargain!
Jonathan Green is currently prepping the Kickstarter for the followup to his popular Sharkpunk anthology, sensibly titled Sharkpunk 2. Alongside stories by James Lovegrove, Jon Oliver, Guy Haley and more, it’ll feature my weird horror story about the Greenland Shark, ‘Eqalussuaq’. You can join the Facebook group to receive updates.
I also have new stories forthcoming in Hic Dragones’ Into the Woods anthology and the British SF magazine, Shoreline of Infinity. More info as and when.
You can read a reprint of my creepy primary-school story, ‘Tunnel Vision’, for free on the Pantheon website, which features the excellent illustration by Carrion House shown on the right.
See my list of published fiction for a full list of the stories and reprints I sold in 2016.
I’d been prepared for 2016 to be lacking in new writing, given the birth of my second son in June and a whole three months away from writing fiction. Somehow, however, I ended up writing slightly more than in each of the previous three years – around 126,000 words. My being freelance (and therefore more flexible) must have been responsible, despite the fact that it’s felt like more of a struggle finding writing hours.
Anyway, these 126k all-new words were plugged into just two projects. The first was BLIGHTERS, now available from Abaddon. The second project is a new SF novel, about a group of people who spontaneously produce clones. I’m nearing the end of a second draft and I’m hoping that a third will clinch it.
Other than that, I have two other writing projects coming up in 2017. They’re secret for now. It’s immensely exciting to be looking forward to what’s next.
Another guest blog post, How to Travel Through Time in Comfort and Style, is up on the SFF World site today.
(As you can see, all that prep for the FantasyCon ‘How to Build a Time Machine’ panel didn’t go to waste…)
Little-known fact: all of my published long fiction began life as either short stories (Blighters / You Don’t Belong Here) or as an entirely different novel (Carus & Mitch).
My guest blog post, in which I advise never to discard any of your writing, is up now at The Writers’ Greenhouse.
Reviews of the novel have started appearing online…
- The Eloquent Page – “You Don’t Belong Here is that perfect blend of cautionary tale, psychological horror and introspective character study. Tim Major does a great job of picking apart his protagonist and also keeping the reader on their toes. This is the sort of suspenseful writing I always enjoy. This story feels like it should sit somewhere between an episode of The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected. Highly recommended.”
- The British Fantasy Society – “[Daniel Faint] has either gone mad by being alone in the mansion for so long, or something has gone wrong and he is as sane as most folk. This is pretty much what the reader has to decide, and to be honest from the moment I picked the book up, I got straight into it…”
- Horror After Dark – “You Don’t Belong Here is a story that is very difficult to categorize. It’s a time travel/mystery/psychological mind game. How’s that?”
Also, you can read an extract from the start of the book at Speculative Fiction Showcase.
Thankfully, the title of this post isn’t too close to the bone, as I felt a little more at home being interviewed on camera than I expected. Or, at least, it wasn’t an excruciating experience, and I didn’t clam up. Here’s the brief interview segment from my local news channel, which contains a bit of a primer for YOU DON’T BELONG HERE, a chat about time travel and Sunday’s FantasyCon panel, as well as an unplanned reveal of the theme of my next novel.
My short piece about John Wyndham’s THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and its influence on my novella, BLIGHTERS, is up now on the Ginger Nuts of Horror site.
Here’s a quick round-up of reviews so far for Blighters…
Ginger Nuts of Horror – “Blighters is an effortlessly readable book sprinkled with subtlety and insight, humour and honesty, and was a very pleasant surprise. It is everything that I was not expecting a book about giant space-slugs to be, and is so much better for it. Gorehounds and schlockfiends steer clear – this is strongly recommended for fans of original and uniquely weird fiction.”
Horror After Dark – “This was a fun, meaty novella that was a creature feature, but SO much more. Highly recommended-especially to fans of the old Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories and magazines!”
And, for the sake of completion, a brief ‘Look out for…’ piece from This Is Horror – “Major is a talent to watch on the British horror scene, so check out Blighters soon.”
I’ll add more as they appear…