Blog on the Bus pt64 (why I decided to kill Jack Vincent)

Good morning bus bloggers. Before I begin, I should warn you that this post contains spoilers. If you’ve not read but intend to read any of my work, please look away now and stop reading this post.

That’s better.

I feel troubled dear friend: there is a heaviness weighing on my mind and I feel the need to confess to you the real reason that I decided to kill off Detective Inspector Jack Vincent (in case it was troubling you too).

When I started writing Integration (my first formal foray with the written word), I wanted to create a conflict for my protagonist Mark Baines. Baines, as a character, was based very loosely on myself (write what you know, right?) and a lot of the views and emotions he felt were representative of my own. I tried to create a conflicting character that would get under my skin. Who better than the officer investigating Baines for the crimes he was blackmailed into committing?

In my head, D.I. Vincent’s physique (bald and with a ‘tash) was based on David Haig (the actor who played D.I. Derek Grim in Ben Elton’s tv series The Thin Blue Line). Bet you didn’t know that (In fact I’m curious to know how you did picture him?)! I didn’t want Vincent to be a figure of fun (not to the reader anyway). I wanted him to be a character who strived to do the right thing but inevitably got it wrong. All the time. I wanted the reader to dislike him; more for his misinterpretation of facts than anything specific he did.

When I published the story I felt pleased that he’d reached the level of dislike that I wanted.

When writing Remorse, I once again needed a police officer who would jump to the wrong conclusions and so I wheeled Vincent out once more. He delivered for me again.

When I started plotting Redemption, I had in the back of my mind that Vincent would appear but, as the majority of the plot was in London, his role would only be minor. But as I started to write his part in the final shootout at the hotel, something happened: a breakthrough.

I suddenly understood his motivation and emotional dexterity. As I wrote his farewell to Ali Jacobs I was filled with empathy for this man who had dedicated his life to striving for justice and failing more often than he succeeded.

As I started to write Snatched, I knew that this emotionally-enhanced Jack Vincent would end the story as an anti-hero, delivering unconventional justice for protagonist Sarah Jenson.

Some of you will remember that my fifth novel Shadow Line was originally called Dead Drop and only changed as a better-known author had released a story with the same title a month earlier. The original title had been a reference to a code word used by the Security Services but was also to hint at the end of Jack Vincent. But why did I decide he needed to go?

Simple: I’d grown to like him.

Jack Vincent was no longer a character that got under my skin and as such he no longer served a purpose in my writing.

He had to go.

Out of respect for this character I’d come to think of as a relative, I decided to give him an epic send off which was why he took the central role in Shadow Line (it was the least I could do).

But that left me with a void.

Who would replace DI Vincent, the only character to appear in each of my novels (and one of my short stories)? I couldn’t decide who or what I wanted to step into those size-9s. That’s why his position remains vacant in my forthcoming novel Trespass (which you’ll be able to read on 01 December – contain your excitement!)

The good news is: I’ve been interviewing several potential replacements (my imagination is an awesome place) and I can officially announce the position has been filled and D.I. Tony Hunt, one of Northumberland’s finest will make his debut in 2014’s Crosshairs, currently being written.

Anyway, I’ve taken up far too much of your time today. Until the next tie, happy reading!

Stephen

Advertisements

Blog on the Bus pt 63 (I write, therefore I am)

Welcome aboard the world’s first (and possibly only bus blog) on what is yet another wet and windy day in Southampton. You know winter is approaching when you wake to condensation on the windows and your wife wearing a dressing gown to bed (well, I’m not made of money y’know!) I hope that you are sat somewhere warm, dry and comfortable for this morning’s insight into my depraved mind…

As I attempted to count sheep last night my mind wandered to my alleged writing career (I say alleged as it feels in a bit of a rut at the moment). There is an explosion of talent decimating the writing industry and I must admit it’s difficult to get one’s literary voice heard above the crowd. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you understand; for the reader it opens up avenues, plots and genres that would otherwise have remained unseen. What is currently occurring in the written world is what happened in the music industry a decade ago.

Do you remember when MySpace launched and suddenly potential performers (or would-be warblers) were suddenly given a platform to share their music with the world? The Arctic Monkeys were the trailblazers managing to secure a massive recording contract for their work when their single (I Bet You a Look Good on the Dance-floor) went to number-1. Other acts followed including Lily Allen. It opened up the music industry and stopped the big record companies from dictating what we should listen to. It has only been good for music. I mean, where would we be without this period in history? Probably stuck listening to Simon Cowell’s latest manufactured outfit (I’m not referring to his loud trousers).

Since Amazon opened its ebook doors to wannabe writers, all and sundry have come forward clamouring “read my book!” There are literally millions of books for readers to choose from (heck, 9 of them are mine!). No longer do potential authors need to send dozens of unsolicited manuscripts to literary agents, praying that the pimply work experience kid working in the mail room passes it on. Now it’s as easy as a few clicks of the mouse buttons and whoosh (!) you’re a published author.

I can’t deny publishing your first novel is a truly amazing experience and something that all writers should be proud of. In fact, I still get a warm feeling when I publish subsequent stories. But what sort of author am I? I mean, am I any good?

I don’t know.

I’ll probably never know!

In my three years writing, I’ve published 5 novels, 4 short stories and had work included in 2 short story anthologies (not bad for someone who works full time, has a wife, a daughter and a dog to care for). I’ve had some twenty thousand downloads in that time, which feels pretty good, but to date my work has received only 88 reviews (some good, some bad, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time). It leaves me still wondering: am I any good or should I pack it in?

It was this thought last night that had me thinking: what’s the difference between an Arsenal player and one who plays for Accrington Stanley (remember those milk ads in the eighties? Showing your age!)? They are both football players doing what they love. They both turn out for their team each week and give 100%. They are both thankful for the skills God gave them.

What’s the difference then?

One has honed their skills and now plays to a global audience. The other doesn’t.

The analogy won’t have escaped any indie authors on the bus today.

I’m not JK Rowling, John Grisham or Dan Brown.

I don’t receive an enormous fee from a publishing company to write.

I haven’t appeared on the NY Times bestsellers list (though I have been on Amazon’s twice!) and I’ve never been considered for the Booker Prize.

I am a writer though.

It’s a fact.

I have written books and published them. These books have been bought, read and enjoyed by many. I love writing and when I write I give 100%. I am thankful for the creativity I was born with.

I’m not in the Premier League of writers (well, not yet anyway!) but I am proud to call myself a writer.

Am I any good? As I said: I’ll probably never know. I am trying, however.

Until the next time, happy reading!

Stephen.

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. His novel Trespass is due out on 01 December. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)

Blog on the Bus pt 62 (fed up of flat pack)

People bang on about this do-it-yourself mumbo jumbo like it’s a new religion:

“Broken appliance? You should look it up on YouTube and do it yourself…”

“Want to know how to make a perfect choux pastry? You should Google it…”

Whatever happened to inviting an expert into your home to take care of these things? You think I sound old-fashioned? Well, why should I attempt to fix my broken toilet when a friendly plumber, who has trained tirelessly for years (and knows his U-bend from his U-boat) is more capable of doing it for me? What if I mess up the job? What if I can never do as Mother Nature intended because I’ve botched the bog?

I understand that we’re in a world where we need to be more frugal and it is this that is driving the do-it-yourself cult (I’ve heard a rumour that those on the inside refer to it as D.I.Y.), and I’m all for cutting corners but most of us wouldn’t imagine visiting wikihow to learn how to build their own house, would we?

No dear reader, the proper practice should be to let the experts do their thing.

Well, that’s what I did think…but things are changing.

I won’t pretend to be a D.I.Y. officianado (I really do hate flat pack) but I’m starting to be won over by the merits of taking on certain self-assisted projects. I am, of course, referring to the practice of online book publication.

Gone are the days where you required a PHD in Literary Mastersism or a family lineage linking you to the great William Shakespeare. Now, it’s as easy as…well…writing a book. There is a wealth of information out there on that thing called t’internet and to be honest you don’t even need to be a rocket scientist to find it.

It’s true that publishing to the different online platforms (Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore, Nook) requires patience as each platform wants you to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in a totally different format, but it doesn’t matter because there are hundreds of friendly indie authors out there who’ve been in your position and will guide you through the maze.

Historically, I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing a novel and independently publishing it, not when you consider all the publishing houses out there, yet here I am, about to publish my sixth novel Trespass!

So, whilst I would still recommend you allow a qualified electrician rewire your house, I would urge any budding book builders to step up to the plate and embrace the indie author revolution!

Until the next time, happy reading,

Stephen

(Stephen is the author of Integration, Remorse, Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line. Find his work here, here or via stephenedger.com)