Most people are like cats – they live not just one life, but many. Writers are no exception. Here’s me as I spiral through the eddies of my eighth writing life.
Life 8 – Circles
It’s hard to identify when my seventh writing life segued into my eighth. I wrote my last entry in this rolling mini-autobiography way back in 2015, having just started a new role at Cinefex magazine. A hell of a lot has happened since then, not least the publication of my fantasy crime novel String City in 2019.
String City was the final project I had under development with my former literary agent, the late Dot Lumley. I sent her the finished manuscript shortly before she passed away in 2013. It got kind of lost after that, and languished on my hard drive for a long time before I circled back to it, rewrote large chunks, and submitted it to Jon Oliver, the Solaris Books editor who’d published my prehistoric murder mystery Talus and the Frozen King.
When I sent the manuscript to Jon, I included a note saying I thought Dot might have sent him the original draft, but couldn’t be sure, and was he interested in this new version? It turned out he was. I’m pretty sure String City was one of the last books Jon commissioned before he left Solaris for pastures new. He handed over the editorial reins to his successor Michael Rowley, who guided the novel expertly through the publication process.
“Wait a second,” I hear you cry. “Last time you wrote about your writing lives, you were talking about throwing all your energies into non-fiction. Now here you are talking about novels again. What gives?”
The answer’s simple. For many years now, my writing life has been all about spinning multiple plates. I rewrote String City during my time at Cinefex as a senior staff writer and research journalist, squeezing the fiction in around the day job in the way that’s become second nature. The only difference was the day job was something I truly loved doing.
Sadly, in 2021, that day job came to an end. After an unbroken publication run spanning over forty years, Cinefex finally closed its doors and I returned to a life where non-fction wasn’t top of my writing agenda. It was a devastating blow not only to us, the staff, but also to the filmmaking community. I put down a few of my feelings on the subject in this blog post, when the ripples caused by the magazine’s death throes had subsided a little.
The single straight thread running through the spinning eddies of this eighth writing life has been the ghostwriting. I’ve now written fifteen novels in collaboration with Working Partners, including the award-winning Crown of Three trilogy writing as J.D. Rinehart, and a number of German-language novels under the pseudonym R.L. Ferguson, most recently the Catacombia trilogy. I’ve just completed the manuscript for the first book in a new fantasy trilogy, due to be published later this year, with books two and three coming along soon.
Most recently of all, I’ve poured my energies into reissuing my first six novels as self-published editions. It’s a vanity project, really, but one that’s bringing me tremendous satisfaction and pleasure. I started the process in 2016 with a special edition of my first novel, Dragoncharm. I’ve since republished the sequel, Dragonstorm and the complete Stone trilogy. Dragonflame will be finished later this year, completing the set and closing the circle at last.
“Closing the circle” … When you put it that way, it sounds like an ending, right? In a way, I suppose it is. When you get to the other side of an ending, however, you invariably find yourself at a new beginning. Indeed, I’ve recently begun a project that neatly straddles the line between “old” and “new,” namely a sequel to my 2014 prehistoric murder mystery Talus and the Frozen King. Rather like String City, the idea has been sitting gathering dust for a long time – I wrote the basic outline shortly after the first novel was published. Now, at last, the thing wants to live. I’m writing Talus and the Sacred Spear unsolicited, with no publishing contract in sight. It’s another circle, as I spiral back to the sensibilities of my very earliest days, writing by the seat of my pants, immersing myself in the story without fretting over deadlines or editorial demands.
Sometimes people talk about circles being ever-decreasing. This one doesn’t feel like that. In fact, I think the opposite is true. The spiral path is expanding not inwards, but outwards. Where will that path lead? I have no idea, but it seems to me that there’s a different horizon stretching in every direction. Maybe that’s always been true, and it’s only now I’ve gained the perspective to see it. I feel a bit like Tom Hanks at the end of Cast Away, standing at that remote, windswept crossroads and contemplating which road to take (possibly my favourite movie ending ever, period).
Spirals. Circles. Crossroads. I’ve muddled up my geometric metaphors, I know. But hopefully you get the gist. As to which road I take next … when I decide, you’ll be the first to know.
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