||‘Scat.’ She told the racoon. It just looked at her for a second and went back to eating. It wasn’t going to move one centimetre, like it knew she had no authority in this house. Her mother would have attacked it with a stick of course, but Genie stood and stared at it as it continued to eat unperturbed.
‘Might bring you luck – you never know, racoon knocking on your door like that,’ a voice called out from the swing in the backyard.
moment from The Heaviness
Celebrating the publications of Ruya (The Heaviness in Turkish) and VoLontaires (The Repossession) in French 2017.
The Making and Unmaking of a writer - Things you didn't know about Sam Hawksmoor
Where are you on social media? An agent asks me. How many followers do you have? We’re only really taking on photogenic authors right now with a YouTube presence. Do you blog?
These are the type of questions I get asked when I periodically wonder if I can get an agent who isn’t suffering from mental issues or a publisher who, to be honest, would only be interested if I brought 2.1 million followers to the equation. What is a dinosaur to do to get people to read his books I wonder?
Publishing has changed since a great deal since I had my first book published. Dinosaurs truly walked the earth and Apocalypse Now was in the cinemas, along with Alien, Mad Max and The China Syndrome. Then if you wrote a book and sold it, it went into all the bookshops and if you were exceptionally lucky it might get promoted. I was lucky, it got picked up by publishers in New York and I thought my career was set. Three more hardback books followed (two selling to paperback publishers as well) and even though I once made the bottom ten of the best seller list in the Sunday Times, it was only when I started to wonder where my royalties were that I discovered they may not be coming. If I had a time machine and could send myself belated career advice, never ask your publisher for money beyond the advance you got and spent some time ago. It seems that the price of champagne keeps going up and there’s never quite enough left to pay the author…
A friend recommended writing radio drama. I called up a producer and said I’d like to try. He said a writer failed to deliver a play and we have to record something on the 1st. Can you get me an hour-long drama by Monday? I rushed to the bookshop to look up how to format a radio drama (computers hadn’t yet been invented let alone the internet) and wrote it in a weekend. Luckily I had been to film school, so writing scripts was no problem at all, but radio is tricky. You better have a good ear for dialogue. I turned up at the studio at 9am on the Monday. He sent me off for a coffee whilst he read it and when I came back he was making calls to cast it. It was about an employment agency for look-alikes and a copycat Marylyn Monroe being murdered in a hob tub. It was risqué for radio back then, with sex in the hot tub, but they read it through and then recorded it that day, hot tub sound effects and all. The magic question was then asked. Can you write some more? Say one a month for a thriller slot. Of course I said yes. Three years work was promised. I wrote around 35 in the end and it was hard work. The first 12 were easy, I had a bunch of short stories that had never seen light of day. The next 12 were harder and the last 12 were murder. I was desperate, reduced to asking waitresses for their life stories. Luckily I was involved with the horse racing set in those days and there were quite a few dubious people who found their way into my plays. I never made more than the rent from my plays. They were only ever broadcast once and then the tape wiped to reuse. I rescued about 15 of them on cassette. But on reflection it was the happiest part of my life. All a writer can ask for is that someone wants your work and an audience. (In those days around 1.2 million listeners as it followed the top forty charts and people were too lazy to turn off and besides we were taught to write a really catchy beginning to hook them in 90 seconds. Those were the days huh. I seem to recall I won some awards too.
At some point after all this I decided to branch out, go back to screenwriting and pitching ideas. Went to Hollywood and even had two or three screenplays optioned, but it was impossible to get anyone to commit. I had one piece of luck. An historical novel I’d written based on an original screenplay I'd written with a friend sold to an American publisher. I was just making the proof corrections when the New York agent called. ‘The $20,000 check bounced.’
I was devastated. He didn’t seem inclined to continue the professional relationship or try for another publisher and I’d already put a deposit on a flat in Vancouver. I was totally screwed. I wasn’t going to get the money back either.
I’m not sure when exactly, but perhaps just after that when I fell very ill without insurance I realised that other people have jobs, income, mortgages, insurance, cars that don’t need push starts or work with publishers who never pay. ‘Let’s face it, Sam, you have to grow up one day,’ my sister said. ‘If it doesn’t happen soon, you’re never going to make it. You need a job.’ Don’t you just love family advice? Especially when it’s true.
But what to do? Eventually I had to go back to the beginning. Teaching. Study for a Masters…
No one was interested in my previous life or even believed it. Teachers, I rapidly discovered, have very narrow lives with limited horizons. Twenty years disappeared just like that. I still wrote screenplays, wrote a couple of books, but it was like I died and slowly I grew accustomed to the certainty of a salary, a mortgage, new cars instead of old and holidays with my pal Kit. No more worries about being paid. No more flaky producers who never could quite lay their hands on the money or publishers promises about the publicity they were going to do…
But still that burning desire for success was there, not quite suppressed. You can understand why old rockers never fade away, the alternative is so dull, so routine. They must long for the roar of the crowd.
Then I pitched 'The Repossession' to an editor at Winchester Writer’s Conference and she said ‘I’m interested.’ Good grief. You don’t let the fish get away. You write that book as fast as you can.
I’d like to say that there is a fairytale ending and to a certain extent there is, but publishing has changed. Build that social media following they tell you, that's the only publicity you're going to get. The book will sink of swim on your contacts. Well in the end – The Repossession became a trilogy in the UK, won an award (The Wirral) , and finally was published to success in Turkey and now France this year. But as for the followers? Social Media … it’s a generational shift. I’m a storyteller not a blogger. The life of a writer is so monumentally dull, there’s no way I could post something ten times a day without going insane and I don’t follow anyone else. Who has time for that? I don’t post photos of my lunch or dinner. I guess I’m doomed. I still write. The novels are out there on Amazon. I’m going to bring out a new one later this autumn, but I know that it’s a raindrop in an ocean of media.
‘Whom do you write for?’ I ask my students at Lincoln University. ‘If the answer isn’t for ‘me’ yourself, you're going to end up crying. You write because you have a story you want to tell and with luck, just a few people will love it enough to tell others. It’s all you can do. If a million discover it and love it, it’s a terrific bonus, but first you have to love it. So many novels lay abandoned because the writers didn’t love it enough, or a reader didn’t care enough about the characters to continue reading. And every month there's another 100 titles published to tempt readers to forget yours.
I got an email from Lily in France this week after reading ‘VoLontaires’ – is there a sequel please? Honestly that’s the best any writer can wish for.
News on my new book ‘Girl With Cat (Blue)’ soon. It’s my most ambitious and I hope readers discover it when it finally comes out. We’re down to discussing the cover now, always a very distressing procedure.
Crafting the YA Novel 2017
Sam Hawksmoor July 2017 - The Sam Hawksmoor Books List
||The Repossession was published in Turkey as TOZ. Toz means dust and that's quite apt. It's in hardback. The 2nd part is called GOLGE and part three The Heaviness (Rüya) was published June 2017 - My thanks to Gamze Tuncel Demir at Marti Yayincilik for the cover designs
* Background research on anti-gravity here -
**Thinkpiece: What if you read a book you loved and never told anyone, especially the writer? more
What did you want to be when you were a child?.... more
One question I used to dislike the most when a kid was ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’
You’re like 12 years old and you have no idea what you might like to do at 20, let alone 40 .... more
Kindle ebook for The Heaviness - Sam in Canada
More Background to Genie Magee's world. Search and you'll find some extra stories about the main characters.
* If you write me on old fashioned email, I do check and will write back as soon as I can. see Contact
'Terrifying alternative outcome to WW2 - the Blitz brought vividly to life.'
of Tomas D
Tomas accidentally goes back in time to London in the Blitz. Captured and tortured for what he knows about the war... WW11 abruptly ends in 1941.
The day after Tomas disappears, his girlfriend Gabriella wakes up to realise she's the only one who remembers that Germany was supposed to have lost the war... Sample Chapter here
of Genie Magee
Someone with a grudge wants Genie dead. Rian is kidnapped and forced to do experiments. Genie and Renée have just 36 hours to find Rian or he dies - but the one person who can help is aleady dead. Gravity isn't the only thing that can pull you down...
'The best Genie Magee story left till last. It might just break your heart.'