Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Well, It's Been A While: On Health (Physical and Otherwise), Awards, FCon, StokerCon, Pantsing and Publishers

Hi, everyone.

It's been months since I last posted here, and plenty's happened in the interim. So stand by for a long, rambling and self-indulgent wall of text...

2019 has been (thus far - there's still a few weeks of it left) a funny sort of year. I've had a number of health issues, both physical and mental, which have impacted, among other things, our finances. Which was why we couldn't make Fantasycon this year, much to our disappointment. (And to the relief of many others, I'm sure!)

FCon has long been one of the milestones in our year, where we meet a lot of our closest friends in the writing world. Luckily, we still got to catch up with some of them, most notably at Edge-Lit in July, although we had to miss the Derby Ghost Story Festival (as Sledge-Lit has now morphed into) last month. I did joke that, since this was the one year we couldn't make FCon, it would be the year I finally won an award. (It wasn't, but what the hell; what's the point of winning an award if you can't have your very own Gwyneth Paltrow moment in front of a live audience?) Congratulations to Aliette de Bodard for The Tea Master And The Detective, which won Best Novella, and to Catriona Ward, who won Best Horror Novel for her superb Little Eve. I'm proud to have been listed alongside them.

It's been an interesting year on the writing front, especially in respect of novels. I reached a point last year where I found myself looking at the novel I'd been trying to write and returning again to why I became a writer in the first place. I asked myself the question 'If you could only write one more book, what would it be?' and found the answer transformed the work in progress, and my approach to it. I've been highly focused on writing as a career in recent years, trying to reach a level of commercial success closer to the mainstream. And don't get me wrong, I still want that if I can have it, but there's no point unless I'm able to write the stories I want to write. So my priorities, and my focus, have shifted: I've spent 2019 writing exactly the kind of things I want, without driving myself crazy contemplating the market or what's 'in' now. And I've been a lot happier with the work as a result. And more content.

Another thing that's changed is how I write. For years I've felt unable to write a novel without plotting it out in advance - sometimes in intricate detail (the outline for Devil's Highway was over 30,000 words long.) I always envied those writers who could begin with only the vaguest of ideas and basically wing it all the way through, but thought I'd accepted I couldn't be one of them. I was a planner, not a pantser. And yet, this year, that changed. With only the broadest concept of the story I was telling, I wrote the opening scene of a novel; by the time that was over, I knew roughly what would happen over the next few chapters. As I continued, I began to see a little further ahead, and then a little further, and could rough out a handful of notes. I believe this is known as the 'headlight' or 'flashlight' method.

Well, that novel is two-thirds finished, with over 100,000 words written. I've been fixing a bunch of notes I made on it along the way, and while I've been doing that I've been roughing out the opening chapters of another novel that I dived into with even less idea of what I was doing. It can be frustrating at times, even scary - but it's also exhilarating. It's a real delight when, as a writer, you actually manage to surprise yourself. Pantsing a novel is a lot harder to measure and predict, but it's also a lot more fun.

On a slightly less cheerful note...

My fourth full-length story collection, And Cannot Come Again, saw print this year from Canada's ChiZine Press, complete with stunning artwork by Eric Mohr. Unfortunately, within a couple of months of the release, the stories about ChiZine started coming out. Initially, it was a couple of authors complaining about the publishers' failure to pay them on time. My first reaction was dismay, when review sites announced they'd be boycotting CZP's publications, and a desire to wait until I'd heard both sides of the story. But then more stories started coming out; worse stories. Too many to dismiss or ignore. As a result I had to request reversion of my rights as an author from ChiZine, and to ask readers not to buy the collection (which, as you can imagine, kind of goes against the grain for an author.) The grim ChiZine saga, for anyone who missed it, can be read in more detail here.

On a much happier note...

I'm delighted to announce that And Cannot Come Again has a new publisher! My profound thanks to Graeme Reynolds at Horrific Tales, who's acquired the book to be relaunched at StokerCon in Scarborough next year. More details will follow in due course. The new edition will retain Ramsey Campbell's introduction, and may include some new material too!

So, that's where we are now. The year isn't over, and nor are the upheavals - there are other changes in the works, which I'll be able to talk about at a later stage - but I'm still here, and I'm still writing. I don't know how to do much else, after all. Thank you to all the friends and family - and most of all to Cate - for their support over what's been an often tough twelvemonth.

Here's to the hope of better days ahead, for us all. Including, please God, a change of government. (Nearly got through this post without mentioning politics or the upcoming General Election. #VoteLabour)

1 comment:

Catherine Cavendish said...

Certainly a roller-coaster year for you, Simon but things are definitely looking on the up for 2020 (politics aside of course!) Congratulations on the new publisher. Looking forward to seeing you and Cate at Stokercon (if not before)