Today, I’m welcoming my writing pal Simon Whaley to the blog! It’s not the first time he’s been featured! Back in 2012, his was the first guest blog I had on here.
Wow, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then!
As Simon says below, we first met at the Writers’ Holiday in Caerleon.
What he’s neglected to tell you, is that every year (for about 5 years!) we were in rooms next door to each other, on the same corridor, because that’s how Writers’ Holiday worked: you had the same room every year unless you specifically asked to move.
Amazingly, Simon – as far as I’m aware – didn’t ask to move, so I can’t have been too bad a neighbour.
Now we have the same agent (he got there first…). I’m not stalking him, honestly!
Since he ‘debuted’ on this blog in 2012 he’s written tons more articles and books, including his very latest creation, a cosy crime novel, Blooming Murder, about which he’s talking to us today.
The book’s just been on a very successful blog tour (this is the last stop!) and other reviewers have described it as ‘funny and quirky’ and ‘Midsomer Murders Meets Carry On’! ‘Father Brown’ was also mentioned (and I have a soft spot for Father Brown as it’s filmed in my village).
I agree, it’s funny and fast-paced and very entertaining. My favourite character, is man-mad Hortensia Hayes, Head Judge of the Borders in Blossom competition, who has a penchant for Greek yoghurt…. (say no more). Let’s face it, after last night (don’t mention the football. Eeek, too late), we could all do with a laugh, right?
So, over to Simon AND, there is a paperback copy of Blooming Murder up for grabs! Wheee!
Win a Copy of Blooming Murder
All you have to do is leave a comment or ask Simon a question, in the comments below and you’ll be included in the draw. All entries must be received by 6pm on Monday 19th July (a week today), after which I’ll do a random draw and Simon will whizz the book off to you. (UK only, I’m afraid).
Blooming Hard Work! – by Simon Whaley
Firstly, many thanks, Helen, for inviting me onto your blog.
For those of you who don’t know, Helen and I first met at the brilliant Writers’ Holiday when it was held at Caerleon (near to Cardiff). And now we’re both represented by the same literary agency.
Like most writers, once I’d secured an agent, I thought I’d cracked it. I mean, that’s part of the publication journey we imagine in our head, isn’t it? Write novel. Get agent. Submit to publishers. One buys it. Whoop for joy. Sign contract. Bank advance cheque. Prepare for publication. Job done.
For many authors, it can work like that (fingers crossed for you, Helen!).
However, life is rarely that nice straight journey in our head. My novel publication journey has been on so many diversions, I’m sure I’ve double-backed on myself at least six times.
But, in hindsight, that meandering journey has helped me develop as a writer and enabled my humorous cosy crime novel, Blooming Murder, to become the book it is today. Reader, it is not the book that the agency took me on with.
Blooming Murder has been to two publisher acquisitions meetings (three if you count the two times it went to acquisitions at the same publisher). After the first acquisitions meeting, when the publisher decided not to take it on, the editor (who loved the book) gave me some feedback.
I have to say, that 30-minute telephone conversation was one of the most nerve-wracking conversations of my life, but without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Originally, Blooming Murder had my main character, Aldermaston, as a local independent councillor. I wanted an amateur-sleuth-type character who would get drawn into solving lots of different crimes, and I thought a local councillor was different. Here was someone people would come to with their problems, and as a local councillor, he’d have lots of contacts in various organisations – ideal for calling in favours.
My novel was also 125,000-words long. (It had been longer, but I had been through a few editing stages.)
The editor explained that while they were primarily a digital-first publisher, they still produced paperbacks, and so paperback costings were an important part of the financial equation when deciding what to publish. My 125,000-word manuscript would make an expensive paperback.
They’d rather it was closer to 90,000-words.
Usually, he would suggest cutting a subplot to reduce the word count. But having read my novel, and the way the subplots were so tightly interwoven into the main plot, he didn’t think that was possible. In fact, he wished me luck in cutting that many words! (Gee, thanks!)
He also explained that the American market is the biggest market for cosy crime, especially British-based cosy crime, and what most American readers enjoy are characters with aristocratic links. Could I turn my main character, Aldermaston, into a Lord?
Now, some writers might be uncomfortable with this suggestion, but I liked the potential opportunities for more humour.
So, I worked hard at cutting 35,000 words and rewriting the novel making Aldermaston a Marquess. Changing Aldermaston from a local councillor to a Marquess wasn’t easy. I had to move him from his three-bedroom semi into a large country estate, for a start.
This process has taught me that your novel can become a different beast, yet still be the same. While Aldermaston is now a Marquess and not a local councillor, he’s still a respected member of the community whom people trust with their problems. That’s what I wanted in my amateur-sleuth. And I’ve still got it.
And even though it’s now 35,000-words slimmer (don’t ask me how I did that), it’s still the same plot.
Writing novels is blooming hard work, and it may not pan out how we think it will. But is it worth it? Yes. You could say, it’s blooming marvellous.
For more information about Simon and his novel, visit http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/blooming-murder/, where you can also download the first chapter for free!