At the moment, I’m in awe of Kate Atkinson and her literary novel, Life After Life, which couldn’t be further removed from Jackson Brodie and hisCase Histories. Also, a high five must go to JK Rowling for doing what she wanted when she drew a line under Harry P. I am a big fan of both The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoos Calling.
So, now it’s my turn to take the plunge … and I thought you may be interested in the journey that led me here, through the forest of rejection letters, three literary agents and the welcome freedom of independent publishing.
This month sees the release of my first straight crime novel, Crimson Shore, the first novel in The Gold Detectives series. It feels great to be writing in a genre I love, among writers whose work I admire. But a little part of me also feels that maybe I am copping out after two years of railing against the constraints of the publishing industry.
Let me explain ...
In 2012 I published my first two novels via Triskele Books. The Charter and Closure(followed by Complicit in 2013) were all what I classed as cross-genre. To be exact, they were a melting pot of genres. Crime thriller, mixed with historical fiction, paranormal, and a good dose of police procedural. I spent much of that period defending my decision to break down what I saw as genre boundaries imposed by traditional publishing and welcoming with open arms the freedom that Triskele and independent publishing offered me.
But I had a guilty secret. Behind the scenes, I still had a literary agent who spent most of 2010, 2011 and 2012 trying to sell my straight crime novels to large publishing houses without success. So, why did I find myself with a foot firmly in both camps?
The first full length novel I completed to something near publishing standard was an early version of Closure, a book that featured a young boy whose visions, coupled with his mother's belief in reincarnation, led to the capture of a serial killer. The second book I wrote, The Charter, had a plot tied very tightly to the 1859 sinking of the steamship, The Royal Charter, and the ghost of a girl who died in the tragedy.
My final agent was my third. All had loved my writing but couldn't sell the books. This agent was blunt and practical. Traditional publishing markets were not ready to welcome my style of cross-genre. 'Crime readers read crime,’ she said. ‘Ghost stories are read my lovers of paranormal. A crime reader doesn’t want to read about ghosts. If publishers can’t see a market, they won’t buy the books. It’s all about sales for them.’
I didn’t agree, but felt in no position to argue. 'Take out all the ghosts and let's see what's left,' she said. 'Give the books a different central core but stick with the bunch of detectives. I like them.'
With that ringing in my ears, I adapted one of my books into a straight crime detective story. For my own tastes, I still added a bit of a spooky element with the death of a psychic who foresaw murders. ‘Nope,’ came back the reply, ‘it’s still too paranormal, cut the psychic. How about a teacher? Through gritted teeth I rewrote the book. And rewrote the book. And then, just for fun, rewrote it again. I wrote the second in the proposed series whilst I was waiting for the first one to be agreed. I knew my writing was getting stronger, and finally it was deemed ready to pitch to publishers. And so began another waiting game.
Stubbornly, the story of that little boy and his nightmares (Closure), and the eerie opening scene of the sinking of The Royal Charter (The Charter) were still firmly rooted in my brain. I had to write them out. So, I filled my time and continued with my cross-genre writing on the side, and by the time Triskele Books came into fruition in late 2011, I had two completed cross-genre manuscripts.
For reasons outside of my control (which increasingly seemed to be the case) the deal with the publisher fell through and, after a lot of soul searching, I decided to part company with my agent. The thought of another round of submissions, the endless waiting and potential rewriting filled me with dread.
It was time to put all of my eggs in one basket and publish my crime series via Triskele. What did I have to lose?
Indie publishing was breaking new ground, and with the efforts of Orna Ross and the Alliance of Independent Authors among others, readers were starting to take notice of indie published books and that early stigma of poor quality was becoming a thing of the past. Triskele is a part of me and so carries many of my ideals for quality, professional writing. It offers me the freedom to write what I want and release what I choose. I have a six book series to work my way through plus an idea bubbling away that is currently under research to release a historical fiction novel in the future. I am currently auditioning narrators for audiobooks. And I know I shall have no option but answer the call of my cross-genre spooky thriller writing again one day. So, why choose when we can be greedy and do them all, and let's thank indie publishing for giving us the freedom and opportunity.
So, while a little part of me is glad I chose to ignore boundaries and write what I loved back in 2010, another part of me will forever be grateful to the agent who pushed me to develop my straight crime writing, because now I have The Gold Detectives to look forward to for many years to come. I finally feel that I am back in control of my career and with the increased success of indie-publishing, Triskele Books are carving a real reputation for their quality books and strong time and place brand. And I have three spooky novels under my belt that I am proud of and which have built me a great audience of readers.
So, now the proof is in the pudding, as the first book in The Gold Detective series, titled CRIMSON SHORE, will be released 1st June 2014. And I can’t wait to see what readers think of my move into straight crime fiction. I hope they enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the journey to get here.
And I hope every writer reading this goes on to do something brave!
A Company Director for twenty years, she has written obsessively for over a decade, predominantly in the crime genre. She has completed six full length novels and numerous short stories.
After completing a creative writing course, she decided to take her writing to the next level and sought representation. She is a columnist for Words with Jam literary magazine, a regular theatre goer and avid reader across genres.
She splits her time between Birmingham and a remote cottage on Anglesey where she finds her inspiration and takes long walks on deserted beaches with her Jack Russell, Maysie.
You can find Gill at:
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