Friday, 30 October 2009

Our Featured Publication: Acts of Violence

Our featured publication in November is a debut novel by Ryan David Jahn, Acts of Violence.

Dark, compelling and powerful . . . a rare and fine talent’ R.J. ELLORY

Katrina Marino is about to become America’s most infamous murder victim.

This is Katrina’s story, and the story of her killer.

It is also the story of Katrina’s neighbours, those who witnessed her murder and did nothing: the terrified Vietnam draftee; the woman who thinks she’s killed a child, and her husband who will risk everything for the truth; the former soldier planning suicide and the man who saves him. And others whose lives are touched by the crime: the elderly teacher whose past is catching up with him; the amateur blackmailer who’s about to find out just what sort of people he’s been threatening; the corrupt cop who believes he is God’s ‘red right hand’.
Shocking and compassionate, angry and gripping, ACTS OF VIOLENCE is a sprawling, cinematic tour-de-force, a terrifying crime novel unlike any other.

Hi, Ryan. Tell us a little about your novel, Acts of Violence.

It's a crime novel set in 1964 and the story is very loosely based on a real event. A woman in Queens, New York, was murdered outside her apartment by a man whose only motive was to kill someone, as he later testified. He attacked her twice, and the combined attacks lasted over thirty-five minutes. There were allegedly thirty-eight witnesses who did nothing to help her. I thought it might be interesting to take the heart of the story and build a novel around it. It spans a three hour period on the morning of the attack, and dives into several subplots which move likes spokes around that central hub.

What was your path to Macmillan New Writing?

I wrote the first draft of Acts of Violence in July and August, 2008, and spent the next several months rewriting it and doing research on the state of the publishing industry (abysmal). In November I read about Macmillan New Writing on an industry blog. After doing some research, I thought they seemed a viable option. And I liked the fact that you could simply submit your completed manuscript, bypassing the whole business of figuring out how best to pitch it to agents. (I'd gone that route with earlier work, which rightly remains unpublished, and disliked the entire process.) On December 8, I emailed the manuscript in to MNW. On December 20, Will Atkins (commissioning editor) emailed me that he liked it, but others would have to read it before any decisions were made. They'd get back to me after the Christmas holiday. On January 8 they did. It was a nice way to start the new year.

You’re in a somewhat-unique position here, as you have a multiple-book deal with Pan Macmillan even before your first novel hit the stores. How did this come about?

I can only assume the decision was made during an office party at Macmillan and everybody was drunk. After the contract came through for Acts of Violence, I went back to work on a second novel I'd begun in October. I had this irrational fear that if I couldn't get it finished before the first book came out, something horrible would happen. I didn't know what, but that vague fear hung over me, threatening that something wretched would fall upon me if I didn't type “the end” soon enough. I finished Low Life mid-May and submitted it. At the end of June, Will emailed me and said he'd like to talk on the phone. If I couldn't talk today, it would have to wait a week, as he was heading out of town. I emailed him back and asked him to call. I expected a nice rejection and an open door. (Though my wife, smarter than me, assured me that nobody ever chooses to break bad news on the phone rather than in email.) Ten minutes later the phone rang. We chatted and I rambled a bit about what I was working on next. He made an offer for Low Life and the follow-up, and we spent the next couple weeks banging out the details for a two-book deal. I sent in my notes on the copyedited typescript last night.

What is your typical writing day?

I don't really have one. I do try to get two or three hours of writing or rewriting in every day, but I could start at seven a.m., or, as last night, eleven p.m. My preference is to work nights, as there are fewer distractions then, and I'm easily distracted, but I wake early no matter what I've done the night before, and lack of sleep makes me cranky.

Do you have a writing mantra?


Do you compose by pen or by keyboard, or what...and why?

Keyboard. If I'm writing longhand I find myself frustrated, as my hand won't move as fast as my mind. I learned to type on a manual typewriter almost twenty years ago, using my index fingers for the letters and my right thumb for the space bar. I still type that way, but on computer now, and last time I checked I managed about 65 words per minute. The only downside to having learned to two-finger type on a manual is that I still pound at the keys as if my fingers were hammers and have destroyed a few keyboards.

Will you share the greatest influences on your writing?

I'd like to say Carver, Hammett, and Hemingway, and it's true that they were later influences, but the greatest influences tend to be the earliest, I think, and for me that would be Stephen King, Walter Dean Myers, and Kurt Vonnegut. Those are the guys I was reading when I first got serious about writing, so those are the guys I spent time imitating.

Can we please have the traditional Four Random Facts?

1.I hate telephones.

2.I once jumped off a two-storey roof trailing a bed sheet which I thought would act as a parachute. It didn't.

3.My grandfather self-published his own seventeen-years-in-the-making retranslation of the Bible. The only languages he knew, though, were English and Russian, so I'm not sure exactly how he managed it.

4.I've never been to Spain.

And, the last question: What would you rank as the most ludicrous moment in your life?

I spent some time in the army. The whole experience was ludicrous. But out of that collage of absurdity something does stand out. During the last week of basic training, someone failed to fill their canteen before PT (physical training), so the entire company had to hold their filled canteens in front of them, pinched between their two index fingers (no gripping allowed), while one of the drill sergeant yelled, “Now turn left! You're driving a car and you gotta turn left! Don't drop your steering wheel or you might crash! Beep beep!” Everyone turned left. “Now turn right! Beep beep!”

The formal publication date of Acts of Violence is November 11, but the book is not only available for preorder, but has actually already been shipped by many online sellers. Join me in wishing Ryan the best of luck with this book--and the next two.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Famous for fifteen minutes

You may have to move fast to catch me but I am currently featured as Amazon's "Author in the Spotlight".

Friday, 23 October 2009

Of blogs and blogging

I have been wanting to ask this for some time: why do we blog? Having followed various blogs for some time, I have several theories, and would be interested to know if they're correct. I blog because I love writing, and if the WIP is going badly, or I've finished a chapter, or there's something on my mind, blogging feels like work (although of course it isn't). Currently, I'm waiting for my friendly policeman (he who gives advice on things police-related) to have a spare moment, so I'm writing this. How does anyone else feel about their blogs? And do you mind whether or not anyone responds? And lastly, how on earth do bits of blog get onto Google, apparently within minutes (this last addressed to David or Tim, who know about these things)?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Flying Off The Shelves

The limited, numbered edition of Ryan Jahn's Acts of Violence was released yesterday at Goldsboro, but if you didn't pre-order, it's too late to get a copy. Two hundred and fifty sold! Congratulations, Ryan.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Yet Another MNW Format Permutation

For a long time, the MNW books were in a single format--hardcovers with black-spined dust jackets. The only change was the logo of the open book, which always looked to me more like a bat in flight; for the first 14 books, it was black on white, and it then switched to white on black. (Though it inexplicably switched back to black on white for my novel.)

Then MNW decided to try the occasional paperback original.

Ryan David Jahn reports on his blog that there's now a third permutation.

I like it, I think...(but, then, my copy hasn't arrived yet, so I haven't seen it ITRW).

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Shorties Rule

This is rubbish reporting, but some guy said last week in an article somewhere that short stories were actually really cool again and publishers liked them once more. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that a good short story is hard to find, and requires the skill and technical ability of a novel.

With that in mind, pop along to my blogmate's new collection of shorties, called, 'The New Goodbye' and enjoy. For free. Oh yes. Not even an instalment plan or a donation needed.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Roger Morris has moved...

Roger Morris has discontinued his long-running Plog and moved it to a new format on his spiffy new website. The link on the sidebar now steers you directly to his new blog, but it's worth a glance around his new site. Very nice indeed.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Congrats to Will!

... who has secured a well-deserved promotion...

Looks like he'll be staying with the crime gang for a bit longer too.

Well done!

Friday, 2 October 2009


Anybody over there heard anything about Macmillan's plans for/and presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair?