Thursday, 26 June 2008

July's Publication...


"Introducing an outstanding new voice in fantasy fiction
Winter on the lawless plains of the Emmenrule. En route to her wedding in the fortified city of Croad, the beautiful Lady Isola is kidnapped. What is worse, her captor is the infamous Beauceron. But, ruthless as he may be, Beauceron is no ordinary brigand: it is his life's ambition to capture Croad itself – and he will stop at nothing to achieve it.
Mondia, though, is a continent of many stories, and in Croad, a young man named Arren has been taken under the wing of the city's ruler, Lord Thaume. Although of low birth, Arren is destined to become a knight of valour and renown. But as his fortunes rise, so those of his childhood friend Eilla fall.
Beauceron has returned with his human plunder to his home – the exquisite frozen city of Mettingloom. There, the imperious Isola finds herself reassessing her former loyalties as she struggles to adapt to her new life. Beauceron, meanwhile, is manoeuvring to raise an army. He is determined to defeat his enemies, both inside and outside Mettingloom – and to capture the city he loathes.
But what is the source of Beauceron’s obsession with Croad? Can Arren reconcile his youthful ambitions with his growing feelings for Eilla? And just who is the Dog of the North?
Tim Stretton’s debut novel is a spellbinding tale of loyalty and betrayal, homeland and exile, set in a brilliantly imagined world of political intrigue, sorcery, and warfare on an epic scale."

About the author:

Tim Stretton was born on the Isle of Wight in 1967. A graduate of English and American Literature, he now lives in West Sussex.

Hi, Tim, tell us a little about your novel, The Dog of the North
The Dog of the North is, quite unusually for MNW, a mainstream fantasy novel. (In fact, I think Matt and I are the only ones to have done it). It's made up of two interlinked stories. One is that of Beauceron, the "Dog of the North". He's a mercenary captain who is obsessed with capturing the frontier city of Croad, for reasons the reader doesn't understand at the outset. There are many vested interests who don't want him to succeed, and throughout the novel we follow his struggles to come out ahead. Duels, treason, intrigues, kidnaps: all play their part. This part of the story is set in Mettingloom, a city I've envisaged as a kind of frozen Venice—a location I had a lot of fun with, and which I hope readers will enjoy too.
The second strand of the story is set in Croad, the city Beauceron wants to capture. It tells the story of Arren, a young man of talent but few prospects. He's taken up by the ruler of the city, Lord Thaume, and begins to advance his ambitions. But he can never forget his childhood friend Eilla, whose own world is contracting as Arren's expands. Arren has also caught the eye of Lord Thaume's daughter, and he has to choose where his loyalties lie.
I'm a great lover of fantasy literature but much of it is clichéd, the prose is often plodding and humourless, and women are either stereotypical victims or improbably kick-ass. I've tried to avoid all of those pitfalls: only the reader can judge if I've succeeded. And I can guarantee there's not a dwarf or a bloody elf in sight: my fantasies are about humans with the kind of concerns you and I might recognise. Will Atkins, my editor at MNW, said it reads like a historical novel of some obscure country, and that's exactly the effect I was trying for.

How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?
The Dog of the North is the first self-published novel MNW have picked up. In fact it's the third self-published novel I've written, and I'd long given up on commercial publication. I was on a creative writing course in 2006 and Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre, told us about MNW. She said that it was controversial within the industry (although I think that's less true now) but she thought it was a great route to publication for new writers. And of course she was right!
I still didn't believe anyone would want to publish it, so I went ahead with my self-publication plan. In early 2007 I submitted it to MNW—about three months later I had an email asking if they could have a bit longer to look at it. I thought this sounded encouraging, and another month or so later I had a first email from Will saying they'd like to publish it—subject to certain caveats, which alarmed me a touch. As it turns out, they were very minor, and once we got into editing, I agreed with 95% of Will's suggestions—and Will was happy to go with my judgement on the remaining 5%. I'd say that working with a professional editor has been one of the highlights of the process.

What is your typical writing day?
I have several different writing regimes. When I'm drafting, I like to write every day to keep the momentum going. I normally write for an hour after work in the garage (which can be bloody cold in the winter!) and I aim to produce 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I'll take a week off work just to write—my aim then is to have two or three sessions a day, and my words target is 2,500—3,000.
In some ways, though, the writing is the easy bit. Getting the characters and the milieu clear in my head will take much longer. I can write a first draft in three to four months, but I spend at least that long beforehand with the ideas percolating in my head.

Four random facts:

Do you have a writing mantra?:
JFDI. This is a family blog, so it stands for "Just Flipping Do It"… If you have a problem with any aspect of your writing, from initial inspiration to plot glitches, the solution is usually to sit down and write something. I've been on several creative writing courses where the unpublished writers are no less talented than I am: the only difference is that I sat down and wrote. It's as simple as this: no-one can publish an unwritten novel.

By pen or by keyboard, and why?:
I'm a lazy sod. If I think I'll ever need to recycle anything, then it's keyboard. For the story I'm working on at the moment, I did the initial scenario and character sketches with a fountain pen in a leather-bound notebook my daughter bought me for Christmas—I knew I'd never need to re-type that, and I profited from the enforced slowness of handwriting. But the day I started the first draft, I went to the keyboard, because some—hopefully a lot!—of that prose will survive.
I also use spreadsheets a lot for timelines, character arcs and the like—so that again drives me down the keyboard route.
The Dog of the North has a major battle in the middle of the book. I had trouble getting that straight in my head, so I drew the troop dispositions and movements on a piece of paper. For some things there's no alternative.

Greatest Influences on your writing:
Jack Vance, who's written the best science-fiction and fantasy on the planet since the 1940s. It's a crime that he's not a household name. I think it's important for genre writers to read outside their field, and I've loved Jane Austen's work throughout my adult life. Other writers I've taken a lot from are Patrick O'Brian and Raymond Chandler. I'm always surprised, as well, how much my work has been influenced by Shakespeare: his influence on the English language has been inescapably pervasive, and even his plots have resonance for a fantasy writer (prompted to avenge your father's murder by his ghost? Driven to usurp the throne by the prophecy of three witches? Today this guy would be categorised as a genre writer!)

Thanks Tim, and congratulations on being published. The Dog of the North is published 4th July and is available at all good booksellers.
For further information please visit Tim's blog Acquired Taste
Or the Macmillan New Writing website

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Interview in the Bookfiend's Kingdom

Hope all my fellow MNWers will forgive me for repeating a post I've put up on my own blog. Thought the site mentioned deserved more publicity than it would get from my blog alone!

Back at the end of May I did an interview with the delightful Vicky Warren from the Bookfiend’s Kingdom, a literary website set up to raise money and awareness for the Disabilities Trust which cares for adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s a fascinating site with interviews (some written, some spoken) with people as varied as Danny Scheinmann (Random Acts of Heroic Love), Charley Boorman (Long Way Round and Long Way Down with Ewan McGregor) and MNW’s own Len Tyler. And now me.
When Vicky initially got in touch, I assumed that she knew that I worked with teenagers with autism and had decided to interview me because of that. But no. She just liked the look of Testament and had decided to interview me. So she came, chauffeured by her friend Debbie and, having propped up her little recording device on our kitchen table, we did an interview. Amazingly, I sound quite coherent. If you’re remotely interested in hearing me rabbit about Testament for many minutes, or even in just hearing what I sound like, (not what I think I sound like, incidentally, but that’s universal) click here. If not, have a look at the BFK site anyway, Vicky has interviewed numerous authors so you’re bound to find somebody you’re interested in!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Home From London

What a time I had in London. It is a magnificent city, and it was a thrill to have my novel released there. Will and Sophie exceeded my expectations and had two events planned for me. One was at Goldsboro Books where on June 3, I signed “stock”, as they say in the business. Owners David and Daniel served wine, and boy oh boy was I ready for that. To my surprise, Len Tyler came just in time for a quick drink, and it was a pleasure to meet him. From there we walked to Orso on Wellington Street where I’m sure the food was delicious, but I was too keyed up to eat more than a few bites.

The week only got better. On Thursday I went to the MNW office to meet a few of the folks there including Mary Chamberlain, first reader and copy editor extraordinaire. That evening I went to Pimlico Library where Sophie and Ellen Wood had arranged for Will and me to do an informal presentation to several groups of writers and readers. I’d been quite nervous about this but the writers in the group were anxious to meet Will (as you can imagine), and they were a chatty bunch. Everyone made me feel welcomed, and it was an evening that I’ll never forget.

I’m lucky that I was able to make the trip. The book and its release wouldn’t have seemed real had I stayed in Texas. To the authors who are on the fence about coming to London for their book’s release, I encourage you to find a way to do it. You won’t be sorry. Meeting Will, Sophie, Ellen, Mary, and valued friends of NMW is worth every pence.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Just back from the Bristol Crimefest, where, no (sadly), I did not win the Last Laugh Award. I did however finally meet face to face a number of people that I had previously known only by their books or their blogs or by email. Peter Guttridge set the toughest pub quiz that I have ever come across (and, no again, I didn’t win that either).

I also, and this is where the fear comes into it, sat on my first panel discussing humour in crime fiction before an audience that included Ian Rankin. In this respect it was a very democratic event – one day I listened to Ian Rankin’s account of how he got to be a best selling author – the next day he listened to me telling anecdotes about my dog.

I also listened to Jeff Lindsay being very funny about pretty well everything, Al Guthrie’s brilliant erotic crime pastiche, and Chris Ewan’s Indiana Jones’ Diary (12st 4, cigarettes 6, Nazis killed 2½ v.g.). I learned that there were no rabbits in C12th England and I was informed that early medieval buckets went “clunk” not “clank”. It certainly wasn’t dull.

Moreover (and this is where I justify the loving bit of the title) the entire murderous crowd of writer and critics and bloggers and readers were all so nice. Those of us short-listed for the Last Laugh weren’t even properly bitchy about Ruth Dudley Edwards when she won it (well, not very, and certainly not to her face).

So, if you are reading this blog then it was good to meet you, Myles, Adrian, Peter, Al, Declan, Ruth, Rhian, Karen, Maxine, Jane, Roz, Louise, Dave, Chris, Bill, Toby, Barry, Jessica, Steve, Pat … and of course Ian. See you all at the next one, when Brian (sadly and unavoidably absent this time) will hopefully be there too.

In the meantime, my next appearance is at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green at 6.30 on Thursday 12 June, when Alison Joseph and I are reading and answering questions.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Just an idea

I am visiting London (26 June- 4 July) once again since the first time I was here for the launch of the MNW imprint. Naturally, revisiting the city carries its own brand of nostalgia. I was wondering aloud if there was a book launch that coincided with my visit, so that I could be part of another MNW event. Frances came up with a suggestion that is really tempting. She felt we could meet anyway, a date, place, time that is convenient. Naturally we need sufficient number of people to make this possible. I was thinking 29 June is a Sunday, would that make it convenient for everyone? I am on vacation so I can make time on anyday. The rest of the details like venue and time will have to worked out by someone more familar with London then I am. But what say others to the idea of meeting for lunch, on 29 June, a sort of literary gathering in real space to corroborate with the virtual space we step in oh so often? Needless to say, all past present and wannabe MNW writers and kindren souls are welcome. I am sure we will have much to share. Please let me know. It is already sounding feasible.


May's Publication

It's a little late, but here's last month's this month's publication. (Confused? You betcha!)

A curiously brilliant nocturnal fable about a boy who cannot sleep . . .

'Funny and filled with heart . . . a sparky debut' – Alexandra Heminsley, The London Paper

"Dreaming of joining the brotherhood of Acapulcan cliff-divers, young Mikey Hough rigs a diving platform in the garden of his suburban Berkshire home. Two years later, when he awakes from his coma, Mikey befriends Roger, an elderly ex-pilot hospitalised when his precious Distinguished Flying Cross was violently stolen from him. Mikey soon learns that his own disastrous attempt at flight has damaged his Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, destroying his ability to sleep. The medical profession can do nothing for him. He is sent home from hospital to die. One night, a despondent Mikey stumbles across Livia, the cynical teenage ward of a neighbouring councilman. Together they decide to track down Roger’s stolen medal.
So begins a remarkable, picaresque journey into the dark heart of suburban England, during which the fearless Mikey and Livia confront a sprawling cast of pensioners, policemen and criminals – including the profoundly sinister man-child ‘The Fat Controller’. As they hurtle towards daybreak, they persuade Roger to undertake one last, gut-wrenching sortie into the night skies.
The Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight is a heart-rending and riotous mini-epic, a brilliantly subversive coming-of-age tale about what happens when dark and light collide, and society’s marginalised find their voice
'A humorous, moving and eloquent debut' Bookseller

About the author:

Siôn Scott-Wilson works in advertising and has won many industry awards for his television work, including a BAFTA nomination. He is married with two children.

Hi, Sion, tell us a little about your novel, Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight:
"I’d written quite a few short stories and articles before embarking on my first novel about seven years ago. The Sleepwalker’s Introduction to Flight is my second and was born on a coach in Stuttgart during a tour of the Mercedes factory. I’d been short-listed for the Fish Publishing prize with my first work and David Mitchell said some nice things about it, which gave me the impetus to keep going. Also, I came across this somewhere - Authors are just writers who never gave up.
My first novel was written organically from a central premise and took about four years. I was much more disciplined with Sleepwalker’s and made extensive chapter and character notes. I feel this method suits me better and allows me to keep control of my characters.
I try to explore serious issues and themes, but hopefully with a little humour - I’m not a preacher. I’d describe Sleepwalker’s as darkly comic novel about risk and reward and the way society treats the marginalised. If Sleepwalker’s entertains while provoking a bit of thought then I’ve achieved what I set out to do."

How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?
I’d heard about MNW on a writers’ website that I’d been a member of for a while. One night I fired off the first three chapters of what was then called ‘Somnambulant’ by e mail with a very short note. Not long after they requested the full manuscript, at which point I panicked and asked for more time to edit.
Eventually I sent off the full ms. One night I was working away at my laptop when an e mail came through from Will informing me that they’d like to publish the novel. I remember flying backwards in my seat, literally, I practically fell off my chair.

What is your typical writing day?
I’m a night owl rather than an early bird. I don’t write every day, usually three nights a week. From about 7.30 or 8 p.m when my kids are in bed. If I’m on a roll I’ll keep going until 2 or 3 in the morning. I usually have a few projects on the go: I’m currently working on the next novel and a six-part radio series. I recently finished a play, which is to be performed in Leeds next month (June).

Four random facts:-
Worst thing about writing:
The viruses. God, it infuriates me that these witless, pasty-faced, no-girlfriend, dickless wonders spend their entire lives closeted in rancid bedrooms writing pointless code just to screw up my computer. I’ve already smashed up two laptops. Now I use a Mac.
That and the isolation.
Best thing about writing:
Making people laugh, out loud. On a tube. With their mouths full.
Writers you most admire:
John Kennedy Toole & J.P Donleavey – sublime.
Most ludicrous moment in your life:
My Citroen 2CV was tipped upside down one night. I discovered this when the police came round the next morning to inform me that it was illegally parked. It’s one of the reasons I endeavour to create such compassionate, sensitive, flattering portraits of the British Constabulary in my novels.

Thanks, Sion, and best of luck with the book. Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight is available now from all good booksellers. For more information visit:

Sion's promotion site

Macmillan New Writing

Or click here for an extract

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Congratulations Roger

Congratulations to Roger for his well-deserved nomination for a CWA Dagger (for A Vengeful Longing)!


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Diversionary tactics

It's well known that there are occasions when some writers will do almost anything to avoid getting on with the work in progress. Just back from holiday, instead of getting down to some writing I have done the following: phoned everyone I can think of, ridden the horse, phoned everyone again, checked emails umpteen times, fainted (not planned, but it gave me the chance to Google the condition, since my doctor son's helpful contribution was to laugh and say I'd had a "funny turn"), write silly things on my website (I've only just learned to administer it myself, and get carried away), wonder again who "Mags" is (and much look forward to her introducing herself)...and write this. What do others of you/us do in this situation, or is everyone else so industrious that the idea of not writing is quite inconceivable? Please tell me I'm not alone.