Greetings, one and all! I trust you’re well and are surviving the build up to Christmas.
Firstly, regarding my recent silence. I’ve been reliably informed that there is no point saying sorry for something if there’s a chance you might do it again; nevertheless, I apologise.
However, I have an excuse. Over the last few months, I’ve been writing, editing and marketing my fourth novel, Swiftly Sharpens the Fang (see synopsis at the bottom of the page). It tells the dystopian tale of an impressionable young British man with personal problems, who is targetted for radicalisation. It is, in my opinion, my best work to date. Whilst working, I’ve been consumed by a focus the likes of which I’ve never before experienced. The first draft, which is approximately 73,000 words, took ten weeks to complete. Compare this to Postnormal (SUBNORMAL Book 3) at 96,000 words, which was six months in the making. Therefore, I wrote Swiftly Sharpens the Fang at nearly double the speed, and this had an impact on my other authorly pursuits, like blogging. And why? I asked myself. How come I was so driven this time around? The answer is a simple one: the lead character, Joe Travis.
Of course, I’ve made no secret of the fact that some of Paul (SUBNORMAL protagonist) Kelly’s traits are based on my own. But if Paul Kelly is similar to me in his thoughts, Joe Travis, of fictional Manchester suburb Grangeheath, is more like me in his heart. At times, particularly in the early stages of the book, Swiftly Sharpens the Fang is almost semi-autobiographical. Like young Joe, I’ve suffered with depression over the years. In fact, until I started writing in 2014, I’d found no solution to my mental health issues, much to the detriment of my marriage and the emotional well-being of my wife. Until I found writing.
The imagining of worlds; the creation of fictional characters; the endless plotting – these began to dominate my mind. I no longer had time to dwell on the thoughts which made me feel low. And once I’d finished my first novel, any remaining head-space was occupied by marketing – social media, website-building and the like. Being an author has, in my opinion, preserved my marriage and has probably added a few years to my life. Not that I don’t still struggle at times, and I am far from the perfect husband, but I’m a lot healthier in my mind. As a result, I’m treating those around me with more patience and consideration. Writing has succeeded where numerous pills have failed, and the dependence upon drugs is another theme I explore in Swiftly, as it was in my SUBNORMAL trilogy. The downside to my medication of choice is that I have a tendency to becoming too motivated, spending my days with my head in the clouds as I mentally tinker with narrative arcs and twists. But it beats the alternative!
Writing has now become a compulsion. Due to my full time job and hectic home life, I practice my art on public transport, on the commutes to and from work. Using a laptop is impractical on crowded buses, so I pen every word on my smartphone. Last year, when circumstances meant I had to drive the car to the office, I dictated my work to my phone, and typed the transcripts on my lunch hour. Nothing gets in the way. Why? I’m not sure. As mentioned in my inaugural blog, I was tested for Asperger’s a few years ago; perhaps this might explain my obsession. But it’s a healthy obsession.
Unfortunately, Joe, the anti-hero at the heart of Swiftly, has just one coping mechanism: alcohol. Unlike me, his depression is caused by a life-changing event – the death of his father at the hands of jihadist terrorists – which means he’s vulnerable when Uncle Steve, the leader of a fascist gang, begins to pour poison in his ear. Joe is a tragic figure; he’s not a particularly likable chap, but he does, I hope, inspire sympathy. Depression and other mental illnesses are a worsening problem in the UK, with suicide the number one killer of young males. And I hope my readers will enjoy reading about Joe’s descent into a world of vice, villainy and vengeance.
Originally, I was inspired to write Swiftly by the Brexit result, and the implicit rightwards lurch in British socio-political ideology. Racism – a subject I’ve discussed before – has, to my mind, been legitimatised by the Out vote (before anyone shoots me down, I’m not accusing Brexiteers of prejudice; see my previous blog for a full explanation), and I fear that the same is happening stateside. My SUBNORMAL books had a strong political message, too. As I wrote, though, I realised that my smart-arsed pseudo-intellectualism had taken a backseat to Joe’s story, as was the case with Paul Kelly and company in Subnormal, Supernormal and Postnormal. I am a better storyteller than I am a theorist, and this is supported by the numerous positive reviews I’ve received over the last couple of years. If you don’t believe me, feel free to check out free samples of my SUBNORMAL books.
Swiftly Sharpens the Fang will be published on the 30th of January next year, and it will be available for pre-order soon. Subscribe to my mailing list, and you’ll be informed as soon as pre-order begins. In the meantime, if you’d like to be in with a chance of receiving an advance preview copy, please contact me. I’m always happy to talk to readers.
I wish you all the best for the holiday season!
SWIFTLY SHARPENS THE FANG
Some monsters are born… Others are created
Following the death of his father at the hands of terrorists, 22 year-old Joe suffers from depression. Using drink to kill the pain, he abuses himself and alienates his loved ones. His life in post-Brexit Britain is a chaos of binges and fights, while his dreams are haunted by repressed childhood memories.
When the black sheep of the family, Uncle Steve, takes Joe under his wing, the young man enters an ugly world of vice and fascism. Although gang membership means glory, fame and money, it comes at a cost to his soul.
Battling against his own conscience, Joe makes as many foes as friends. And soon, there is no escape from his uncle’s organisation and their racist violence.
Unlike Steve, Joe wasn’t born a monster. But his fangs are getting sharper every day.