The past fortnight has been spent working on the latest edit of THE DEAD TRACKS, and it's been a frustrating and ever-so-slightly fearful time. Each successive edit of a book should, in theory at least, become easier, as the really hard work – the big, complicated structural changes – is done when the book first comes back from the editor, rather than at this stage, four or five months down the line. Instead, this past week, I became very worried about one particular sub-plot, and from there ended up retracing my steps back through the manuscript in order to address it. This was never the case with CHASING THE DEAD. In that book, everything was pretty much locked down by the third or fourth edit, and all I was doing was addressing tiny, tiny things like spelling or dialogue, or the rhythm of the narrative. In THE DEAD TRACKS, I've been making important changes to a fifth edit.
This isn't an ideal situation. The book is supposed to head into the machine at Penguin this week, where a copy editor will go over it with a fine tooth-comb, and of course it'll be the first time that this new, adjusted sub-plot has been in there. Ideally, my editor would have had the time to cast her eyes over it properly, as a whole novel, rather than in the bits and pieces I emailed her this week. But, ultimately, there wasn't much I could do. Time wasn't on our side, I really felt strongly that it needed changing, and better now than in nine months time when it's already sitting on shop shelves.
Apart from that minor emergency, though, I have to say I'm pretty happy with how the book has gone. It feels like enough of a departure from CHASING THE DEAD to avoid accusations of repetition – it's certainly more ambitious – but people who read and enjoyed David Raker Part 1 will, I hope, immediately feel at home in the world of David Raker Part 2.
So, what's next? Well, next is some down time, where I hope to read a little (that means polishing off The Raw Shark Texts, which I still - rather embarrassingly - haven't finished), watch some TV (including the finale of Lost) and enjoy the warmer weather. And once I start getting itchy feet after about two and a half minutes, I'll probably start thinking about Book #3. I've got most of a basic and (I think) pretty interesting plot figured out in my head, some of which I've already got down on paper, and some of which has yet to form, either on paper or in my brain. But I enjoy the early stages of a book, despite not always having it 100% figured out from the off. I like returning to a blank canvas after a year (and usually a bit more) of working on the previous book, and I like heading into the next stage of Raker's life and seeing what new and horrible things await him...
Firstly, apologies for how long it's taken me to update the blog. I promised myself that I wouldn't be one of those people that was always complaining about never being able to find the time, but that's exactly what I'm about to do. I do have good excuses, though. Honest. Firstly, I was working every hour God sent (and a few that He didn't) trying to finish a mammoth first edit on Book #2 – and all before the 24th March. Why the 24th? Because that was the day Family Weaver and I flew out to South Africa for a two-and-a-half week holiday, and I was determined not to leave a chunk of the rewrite for my return. I've found there's nothing worse than really getting on a roll with an edit (especially one where you're losing 20,000+ words – which is what's happened with the, er, slightly over-written Book #2), abandoning it for a while and then having to pick it up again while you're still mourning the loss of good weather and extreme amounts of holiday eating. Anyway, the good news is that I did manage to finish it before I went – just – and get it off to my lovely editor at Penguin... which means – a day after landing back in the UK – I find myself in the strange position of having a few spare evenings on my hands before the book is returned to me for the next round of edits. It's a nice feeling.
One of the great things about non-writing time (and this is especially true when I'm on holiday), is that I finally get the chance to catch up on my reading. I'm not sure if it's a weird quirk unique to me, or whether a lot of writers feel the same way, but I find it very, very hard to read other people's work while I'm in the process of writing or editing my own. In fact, since things really took off with CHASING THE DEAD, I've read a pitifully small amount of books compared to my pre-published days. Principally, I think it's down to the fact that my tiny brain can't handle the process of dipping in and out of someone else's world while being fully immersed in mine. I find it a jolting, concentration-effecting experience. But mostly it's to do with fear: I'm scared someone else will have come up with the same idea as me – and will have done it better, first. So far, in the reading I've done in my down time, that's never been the case, but the worry is always there in the background, vaguely threatening to ruin my best laid plans.
While I was away, I had the good fortune of taking John Connolly's The Lovers away with me, which I very much enjoyed (although I'm not sure it's up there with his best – for me, Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind and The Unquiet are him at his most terrifyingly brilliant), Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box (terrific premise but, for my tastes, a bit on the slow side) and The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall which I'm halfway through and – so far, at least – am finding to be brilliantly bizarre, hugely inventive and really fun. I only wish I could read faster. I'm one of those really s-l-o-w readers that takes in every word, never, ever skim-reads and really slams the book shut hard after the last page is done, as if to prove to everyone I took in, chewed over and analysed every letter.
I found The Lovers an especially interesting read, not only because I'm a big fan of John Connolly, but because I wondered how people new to the Charlie Parker series would find it. For me, it relied more heavily than any book I can remember on the reader having an intimate knowledge of events and characters from the previous seven novels (as well as Parker short story The Reflecting Eye and even non-Parker outing Bad Men). Did new readers feel excluded when he frequently referenced events and villains (and even brought back characters) from Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind and The Unquiet? Were they hopelessly confused? Or did it, in fact, make them want to seek out the other books in the series so they could fill in the blanks? I would love to hear Connolly's take on it. Like him, I'm keen not to let major storylines be played out in isolation. In Book #2, David Raker should reference what happened in CHASING THE DEAD (without delivering massive, book-ruining spoilers) and major, life-changing events (as well as the relationships he has built up) should segue into the new book – but, at the same time, I feel it should also operate as a standalone with absolutely no barrier to entry. Getting the balance right is just one of the many balls you end up juggling in the editing stage.
Oh, and one last thing. I'm getting a bit sick of calling Book #2, well, Book #2. So it's time we gave it an official name. The title of the second David Raker book will be THE DEAD TRACKS. And it's out 3 February 2011. More details to follow soon, I promise, but better pencil it into your diary ;-)
Hello! I hope this first ever (proper) blog post finds you all really well. I think it would be rude not to start off by saying a massive thank you to everyone who has taken the time out to get into contact with me, either through this blog, the contact form on the site or via my Facebook page, or even indirectly by reviewing the book on sites like Amazon. I always imagined the most exciting part of being published would be seeing your book on shop shelves (and after ten years of trying to get there, I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t VERY EXCITING INDEED!), but I have to admit it’s immensely satisfying to hear that most people, at least up until this point, are having a great time with the book.
In my experience so far, I have to say the weirdest part of writing novels is the constant switching between CHASING THE DEAD and its sequel. At the moment, I'm deep into the edits for Book #2, but CHASING has only just come out, meaning I'm doing a lot of writing – interviews, journalism, blogging (!) – about a book that I basically haven't even as much as looked at since the final version disappeared into the publishing machine last August. It's not like you can forget about a book you spent 10 years with, of course, but when you move onto a new story, with new characters and a new dynamic – like I have with Book #2 – it does feel strange stepping back into the shoes of an older version of David Raker, at a very different stage of his life. It was especially odd during the actual writing of Book #2 (which took place between December 2008 and June 2009) as I was also, at the same time, working with Penguin's copy-editors on ironing out mistakes and inconsistencies in CHASING's last few typeset versions.
What can I tell you about Book #2? Well, Raker's back and this time he's taking on the case of a missing seventeen-year-old girl. In my head I see it as the flipside to CHASING: if that story is him as The Hunted, this – in many ways – is him as The Hunter… except, of course, it's not quite as simple as that and, just as in CHASING, things can get turned on their head pretty fast! I'm really pleased with the story, the structure and the new characters, although it still requires plenty of editing. The two wonderful ladies in my book writing life – editor and agent – have been through it with a fine toothcomb – and their notes have, as with the first book, certainly given me plenty to think about over the coming weeks and months.
Have a great week!
Author of the David Raker novels