We're now only two months away from the launch of I Am Missing, the new David Raker book, and I'm already starting to get the sweats. (An enduring image, I'm sure you'll agree.) This isn't unusual for me. The whole writing process is full of these doubtful, apprehensive moments, but there's just something extra nerve-jangling about knowing a novel is complete –– there's no more editing, no more time to make changes, to fiddle or fuss over it. It's done. It's finished. Now the next stop for I Am Missing will be bookshops and supermarkets on Thursday 27 July.
I'll be heading out on the road to talk at events and festivals about I Am Missing over the coming months, but confirmed dates for those didn't arrive in time to include in this newsletter. Be sure to keep an eye on the News section of my website, which I'll update with diary dates as soon as I know them, or –– even better –– come and find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where you can get the latest, up-to-the-minute news, which makes my life sound very exciting when it's not, really. Or maybe it is and I'm just playing it very cool. (I'm not. It isn't.)
As always, a huge thank you for your support, for buying the Raker books, and for helping to bring me this far. I'll be honest, starting out as a writer back in 2010, I never would have imagined I would ever get to the stage of releasing a book eight.
I AM MISSING: The cover and synopsis
If you were a subscriber when the Spring newsletter landed in your inbox in March, you'll already be pretty familiar with the hook for I Am Missing, because you got to read the first chapter. What I didn't have then was the cover. So here it is! Clearly, I'm massively biased, but I really love what Penguin have come up with, and this will be what to look out for in bookshops and supermarkets when it arrives into stores on Thursday 27 July. (If you want to ensure that you get the book day one, you can pre-order it at Amazon, in paperback or on Kindle.) Here's the synopsis:
When a young man wakes up bruised, beaten and with no memory of who he is or where he came from, the press immediately dub him 'The Lost Man'.
Naming himself Richard Kite, he spends the next ten months trying to find out who he is. But despite press appeals and the best efforts of the police, he fails in all attempts to discover his identity.
Kite's last hope may be private investigator David Raker, a seasoned locator of missing people. But Raker has more questions than answers. Who is Kite? Why does no one know him? Where are his family and friends? And what links him to the body of a woman found beside a London railway line two years ago?
OR... GET THE BOOK ONE WEEK EARLY!
It's true that I Am Missing comes out on Thursday 27 July, but a week before that, on Thursday 20 July, I'll be launching the book at Waterstone's in Bath and you –– yes, YOU –– are invited. It kicks off at 6pm, and will include a talk, a Q&A, wine (or beer), nibbles, the chance to see just how much of a hilarious west country accent I have and, of course, the opportunity to grab a copy of David Raker 8 seven days before anyone else. If you were thinking of coming in on the train, don't forget that you can get to Bath direct from places like Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, London and Southampton, plus Bath is an awesome place to spend a long weekend. Basically, you should definitely come along because, if you don't, you'll miss out on one of the social events of the year. (Er, actually, I may have oversold this slightly, but it'll definitely be good fun and every single newsletter subscriber is extra welcome.)
In the last newsletter, I asked for your questions, and promised that the best three would all win an early proof copy of I Am Missing, and the best of the rest would all feature here. It was so, so hard choosing the winners, because there were so many brilliant questions, but in the end, I went for emails from Simon Collendar from Doncaster, Gaynor Hardy from Truro and Ros McGilloway from Enniskillen. Thank you again to everyone who responded –– there were so many good ones.
Are there things in your books that, with retrospect, you wish you could change or do differently? And is there anything you did in the early books that –– now you've written eight, including I Am Missing –– you would never, ever do again?
For me, the writing process is a huge learning curve, even eight books in, so if I wasn't learning as I went (and, in theory, getting better –– or, at least, more certain and comfortable with the processes) there would be something seriously wrong. I try not to look back with too many regrets about what I've written –– every book I've ever released has been the absolute best thing I could have put out at that particular moment in time –– but I certainly don't think they're perfect, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't things I might, in hindsight, have done differently.
Chasing the Dead remains the only book that I've reissued (in 2015). Long time readers might not even realise that, as I never advertised it, but there were little things –– mostly to do with Raker, his character, and his dialogue; but also some of the violence, which I came to realise was a little excessive –– that began to bug me about the original version, the more that time passed. I'm very proud of that book, because it was the one that got me a publishing deal, but it was written over the course of ten years, before I ever became a published writer, and some of it didn't feel in tune with the rest of the series. I'm much happier now I've had the chance to go back and work on it a little (I didn't do a lot –– it's about 95% the same), and in my opinion, the Raker in Chasing the Dead now feels more like the Raker we find in The Dead Tracks onwards.
I don't know exactly how to phrase this without giving things away for people who haven't read What Remains, but in Broken Heart, on p22, you mentioned that Raker's friend (we all know the one!) was now living in secret in south Devon and calling himself Bryan Kennedy. Will we ever hear from him again?
Ha ha, great question. Yes, we definitely will be hearing from Raker's friend, but I felt he needed a break from us, and we needed a break from him, especially after the events of What Remains. He was, originally, going to resurface in I Am Missing, but I just wasn't able to juggle the story of Richard Kite with the demands of an, ahem, Bryan Kennedy storyline, so I decided to give him an extra long holiday. However, there are other plans afoot for him, so watch this space.
Your plot twists constantly have the power to surprise me, with Never Coming Back, Fall from Grace (that revelation at the end!) and What Remains particularly coming to mind. So my question is, how many of those plot twists do you work out in advance, and how many just come to you as you're writing?
I would say the majority spring to life as I'm writing, because as I've documented in my blogs, I'm not much of a planner. Generally, I'll start out each book with a concept for someone going missing mysteriously, though not necessarily the how and why, and an end point –– it might be a location for the final scene, or a villain, or it might just be a vague sense of the big conspiracy behind everything –– but all the other stuff gets made up along the way. It sounds like a haphazard way of working and, in some respects, it is; but, personally, I don't believe that characters come alive until you've got them on the page, thinking, acting and interacting with one another and so, for me, it's very hard to judge the effectiveness of a plan because you've got no real sense at that stage of how any of these characters will bed in. More fundamentally, I also think it's easier to do unexpected things when they're not planned, because you're not thinking about them until you get there –– and that's useful in a thriller when one of your most important jobs is to surprise and deceive the reader. I've said this before somewhere, but the whole process of writing thrillers is me second guessing the reader second guessing me.