Friday, April 16, 2010

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

If it’s Friday is must be Phoenix. Arizona, that is.

I have washed up here after two intense weeks of touring to promote three new books out this year. Starting in the midwest, then moving up to Seattle and working my way down the entire west coast, I have finally settled in the desert for the next four weeks for preparatory work on two major projects...

...before resuming the tour in upstate New York, and working my way down the east coast to Washington DC.

The projects?

Well, the first one involves writing a screenplay. A French movie producer has bought the film rights to one of my China Thrillers, and commissioned my wife, Janice Hally, and myself to write the screenplay.

Janice and I met while working as screenwriters for TV in the UK, so are no strangers to writing for the screen, or working together. It is quite a different discipline from writing a book, although I have imported many of the techniques I learned as a scriptwriter to the writing of my books - the preparation of a scene-by-scene breakdown before starting the writing, the use of dialogue as the primary means of developing story and character.

While working as a script editor in television, I always used to tell my writers: “If your dialogue doesn’t move plot forward or develop character, then cut it out.” To be honest, I cringe when I look back at the dialogue I wrote in my early books, before my TV learning experience. Sharp, crisp, pointed dialogue that performs both of the above functions is worth a thousand words of telling your readers that Character A has a foul temper, and that a simple, thoughtless action is about to turn your protagonist’s life upside down.

In this case, I have to move the action of the story from Shanghai to Hong Kong, and change the nationality of my heroine from American to French. Both of which will require some fundamental re-thinking.

My second project entails research and development work on a book I must start writing this summer. It will be the second of a trilogy. The first, “The Blackhouse”, will be published in the UK next January (and hopefully not long after in the US). The follow-up must be delivered before the end of the year.

“The Blackhouse” was a book universally rejected by publishers in the UK four years ago, and only resuscitated 18 months ago when my French publisher read it, fell in love with it, and bought world rights. Since then it has been snapped up by publishers all over Europe - six publishers in Germany got into a bidding war over it - and finally... guess what... it got bought by a UK publisher, too! Not one of those who rejected it. But a wonderfully successful, independent publishing house called Quercus (they are the ones who bought the English language rights of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy) who not only loved the book but wanted more - hence the trilogy. I have now signed three-book contracts with both my French and British publishers.

The book came out in France, in translation, last October, to the best reviews of my career, and was named by a leading French mystery website as one of the best 25 mysteries of the first decade of the millennium.

So for those of you suffering from the depression that accompanies rejection (and I know it well) - this is a tale of hope. Publishers can, and do, frequently get it wrong. So obsessed sometimes with replicating the success of something that has been, many publishers often miss the potential of something new.

And the book itself? Well, it takes place on the Isle of Lewis in the wind-blasted Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and I believe it is the best thing I have ever written. The follow-up will also be set in the Hebrides.

A bit bizarre, you might think, to be developing a story set in a remote archipelago in the North Atlantic, and writing a screenplay set in Hong Kong, while soaking up the Arizona sun. And I guess it is.

But therein lies the power of the imagination.

1 comment:

Lesa said...

Welcome back to Arizona, Peter! I'm looking forward to your appearance for Authors @ The Teague on May 6th. See, even when you're taking a break from your tour, you're still touring.