Everyone, look! SNAKESKINS, my first novel for Titan Books, has a(n incredible) cover… It was created by the amazing Julia Lloyd, the book will be released in May 2019, and I am very very excited. See this Barnes & Noble blog post for a little more information about the announcement.
My first novel for young adults, an SF adventure called Machineries of Mercy, is out now in the US and Canada, and will be released in the UK on 15th November. It’s published by ChiZine, through their YA imprint, ChiTeen.
And today I received my author copies!
Yesterday I returned from FantasyCon. From about the halfway point of the convention I started feeling quite overwhelmed – but not in the what-am-I-even-doing-here? sense that I used to feel at such events. This time I was overwhelmed because I felt comfortable, and because the people I was speaking to are no longer intimidating but are my friends, and because those same people are so very, very talented. Each time I looked around at the faces in a reading room, or a panel session, or at the bar, I felt awed at the thought of all the wonderful fiction these people were producing, and even more awed at all the potential still to be tapped.
Also, it was fun.
In the midst of all this, I failed to take stock of the fact that a book I wrote was released at FantasyCon. My non-fiction book about the 1915 French crime serial, Les Vampires, was launched at the PS Publishing event on Friday. I held a copy – briefly – when somebody asked me to sign it. I picked up a copy for myself the next morning, and jammed it in my rucksack along with books I was far more excited about, including novels by Aliya Whiteley and Stephen Volk and collections edited by Dan Coxon and Mark Morris. When I rolled into my hotel room at 2am I picked up the Les Vampires book, smiled, fell asleep.
I was tired on the train home on Sunday. I decided I wouldn’t begin reading any of the books written by my friends; in my addled state I wouldn’t have paid close enough attention. So, with the guilt of vanity, I started flicking through my own book. Then I ended up reading the whole thing. I felt very emotional.
I realised that I’m proud of my book. In published form, I found it easier to enjoy and appreciate than other books I’ve written, perhaps because it’s primarily factual, but also because it’s a response to a film I adore, and because I think my enthusiasm is clear and real and honest.
I still don’t know whether the book would be comprehensible to somebody who hasn’t watched Les Vampires, and the film is over 100 years old, 7 hours long, and is frustratingly difficult to buy on DVD in the UK right now, all of which makes my book hilariously niche. But I think it’s a good book, and I really do like the 10 pieces of weird fiction I wrote and slotted in between the analyses of each episode of the film. I hope the book is noticed and read.
Anyway, to tie in with my overwhelmed and glowy feelings about FantasyCon in general, I feel very grateful that I was allowed to write Les Vampires. Neil Snowdon, founder and editor of the Electric Dreamhouse Press imprint (he even designed the excellent cover of my book!), was indulgent in letting let me spend legitimate time exploring a film I love. He’s been supportive of my work in general and he was responsible for introducing me to many of the writers who are now my friends. I spent several hours with Neil on Saturday, after having met in person only once before, two years previously, and then for only 15 minutes, and we felt like old friends. I hope we’ll continue to collaborate in the future. I hope the Electric Dreamhouse monograph series will continue to grow, and that the books will find readers and recognition.
So. I had a great weekend, and things are great. I have a new book out, and I’m proud of that.
And if you haven’t already – and regardless of whether you buy my book – you should watch the film. Les Vampires is utterly wonderful and deserves to be seen.
I’ve been writing stories and novels since 2011. Before that point, I liked the idea of writing but put down barely any words – the classic error of waiting for ‘inspiration’. I was an idiot back then.
So now it’s seven years later. I guess that’s quite a long time – my wife and I had two kids during that time. We moved house twice and moved town once. I got a promotion, then quit my editorial day job to go freelance. But on the other hand, it’s not that long. I’m trying to focus on achievements here, so let’s say it isn’t that long at all.
I’ve stuck with writing. I didn’t know I was a sticker, but it turns out I am. Happily, it turns out that writing is what I love doing. (And editing too; it would be tough to get very far with all this if editing was entirely a chore.) Another thing in my favour is that I’ve never seen rejection particularly as a critique. My first aim when I started writing was to submit a story to Interzone—not to get published, you understand, only to have put in enough work to allow me to send the story without feeling ashamed of myself. Receiving that first rejection slip was a triumphant moment: here I am, doing this whole writer thing!
Anyway. Seven years. In that time I have written:
- six novels
- two novellas
- thirty-seven short stories
- one non-fiction book
This all adds up to around 840,000 words—i.e. around 120,000 words per year (plus editing).
Of the novels, one has been published and two are due to be published within the next year. The two first novels were honestly never intended for publication (they were NaNoWriMo-style exercises when I was learning how to go about the whole business) and the last-but-one novel has been shelved, perhaps never to be published. Both novellas have been published. Twenty-nine of the short stories have been published or have been bought, and three of the remaining eight stories will appear in my first short story collection next year. The non-fiction book will be published within the next few weeks.
That’s good, I think. I’m very bad at telling myself that. It’s good.
But 2018 has been really good. Like most people, I tend to move goalposts, so that any ambition fulfilled becomes just the first step to the next thing. I’m writing this blog post so that I can appreciate that things are happening that I should stop and maybe marvel at.
- My story, ‘The Walls of Tithonium Chasma’, was selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2017. The story was first published in Shoreline of Infinity in March 2017, but I wrote a first version of the story four years before then. It was the first thing I wrote that I really loved – but magazine editors didn’t agree. I tinkered, resubmitted, tinkered, resubmitted. I’m delighted that it’s ended up doing well.
- Ellen Datlow selected my story, ‘Eqalussuaq’, for The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten. I was stunned when I received the email (pretty much literally: dizzy and bumping into things). This was another story that had had a rough ride. I wrote a version in late 2014, then reworked it entirely for a themed anthology, but then the Kickstarter didn’t work out… It was published in Not One of Us in October 2017, which is where Ellen Datlow spotted it. I look at the contents page of Best Horror Volume Ten and I see my name there, and it still doesn’t seem real.
- I got an agent: Alexander Cochran at C+W. More than anything, getting representation was my big hope for this year. But it was my big hope for last year and the year before that. And now I have an agent, and d’you know what? He’s a really decent guy, and we went for lunch and it was terrific. I’m really excited that my future projects will be planned and plotted with Alexander. I think we’re going to be a good team.
- Titan Books offered to publish my SF novel, SNAKESKINS. I’m thrilled. I honestly can’t imagine a better home for the book, and already it’s a pleasure working with editor Gary Budden and publicist Lydia Gittins.
- Other things, too. My second Interzone acceptance. Three new stories published, with five others lined up. My first invitation to write a story for an anthology. Invitations to write articles for three non-fiction books.
Then there’s that warm feeling of having book publications lined up. Over the last month I’ve been checking onscreen proofs of three books: a monograph about the silent crime film LES VAMPIRES for Electric Dreamhouse Press; my first YA novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, for ChiZine; my first short story collection, AND THE HOUSE LIGHTS DIM, for Luna Press. And edits on SNAKESKINS, steady work on the next novel, and plans for the thing after that.
I’ve been working hard. I haven’t finished what I think of as my writing apprenticeship and I hope I never do, but I’m busier than ever. More importantly, I’m busy doing what I love doing.
I’m very bad at recognising where I’m at. I announce stuff when it needs announcing, but beyond that I struggle to know how to talk about it all. I don’t think I’m likely to get better at that any time soon… but this blog post—self-indulgent as it is—is an attempt to face up to the fact that I’m very happy with everything that’s happening. A lot has gone on, and yet it still feels like the start of something.
[Oh, that image at the top of this post? That’s a chart generated by my writing tracker spreadsheet. It shows the accumulating number of words of all my long projects since around March 2013. The steeper the slope, the more concentrated the work. The gaps represent phases of writing short stories or having children.]
So… here’s something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a while:
I’m very pleased to announce that my SF novel SNAKESKINS will be published by Titan Books in spring 2019. Huge thanks to Gary Budden at Titan for picking it up.
Also, a related development: I’m now represented by Alexander Cochran at C+W literary agency.
Here’s a blurb:
Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.
Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.
SNAKESKINS is an SF thriller examining the repercussions of rejuvenation and cloning on individuals’ sense of identity and on wider society, with the tone of classic John Wyndham stories and the multi-strand storytelling style of modern TV series such as Channel 4’s Humans.
My contributor’s copy of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR VOLUME TEN just popped through the letterbox! Having a story included in it is a very big deal for me. I’m very grateful to Ellen Datlow for selecting my Greenland Shark story, ‘Eqalussuaq’, which was originally published in Not One of Us magazine.
You can buy BEST HORROR 10 now from Amazon in a variety of formats: paperback, ebook, audio CD and audio download.
Well! I’m very – no, ridiculously – pleased to announce that Donna Bond has selected one of my stories for inclusion in BEST OF BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION 2017, which will be out in April from NewCon Press. And would you look at that lineup! Honestly, I’m feeling faint at seeing my name listed alongside these authors.
- Blinders – Tyler Keevil
- In the Night of the Comet (2017) – Adam Roberts
- The Walls of Tithonium Chasma – Tim Major
- 3.8 Missions – Katie Gray
- Over You – Jaine Fenn
- The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself – Matt Dovey
- Uniquo – Aliya Whiteley
- Looking for Laika – Laura Mauro
- A Good Citizen – Anne Charnock
- Mercury Teardrops – Jeff Noon
- The Nightingales in Plàtres – Natalia Theodoridou
- The Road to the Sea – Lavie Tidhar
- When I Close My Eyes – Chris Barnham
- Targets – Eric Brown
- London Calling – Philip A. Suggars
- The Last Word – Ken Macleod
- Voicemail – Karen McCreedy
- Green Boughs Will Cover Thee – Sarah Byrne
- Airless – N.J. Ramsden
- Product Recall – Robert Bagnall
- The Endling Market – E. J. Swift