Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Now what?

My decision to spend no more time promoting my book A Half Life Of One means I can get back to doing what I really want to do. Which is writing my next book. The only question is, which one?

I've been working sporadically for about a year on a novel called "Mummy's Boy". This is very much a work-in-progress and I haven't really thought through the whole plot. It starts off telling the story of a boy from the age of five up until he's eleven in a fairly conventional way. The boy - you won't be surprised to hear - is really me at this stage. The child has a happy childhood despite the fact that his mother is a developing schizophrenic. His father is poor and increasingly given a hard time by the boy's mother. At this point I should say that the book is emphatically not a "misery memoir". These are the happiest days of the child's life and he easily copes with his mother's illness and the family's relative poverty.

At the age of eleven however the boy's life takes a dramatic turn for the worse when his father dies in fairly horrific circumstances and his mother is hospitalised. The next few years are difficult to say the least. In the end - at around about the age of twenty-five - everything works out all right. All right that is, in terms of the fucked-up world in which we live. I suppose it's another modern horror story, just like A Half Life Of One.

And that's the problem. I'm fed up writing about myself. I'm fed up writing about about things I know too well. I need to stretch myself artistically. Explore new subjects. Free up my imagination. Take chances.

So right now I'm considering two other options. The first is an historical drama set during World War Two in Vichy France. I can't say too much because it'll give the plot away but let's say it turns conventional morality on its head. It will be a serious book requiring quite a lot of research. The subject matter will be controversial.

My other option is completely different. It's a modern thriller with lots of black humour. To give you the flavour here's how it starts:

There are only two ways to double-cross someone successfully. The easy way is to kill the sucker straight after the con. The hard way is to dupe the mark so that he doesn't know he's been had. Mostly I prefer doing it the hard way because it is more professional. Tommy Bilsborrow on the other hand was such a schmuck I decided the only truly satisfying way to shake him down would be to combine the two techniques, preferably slowly.

I'm keen to get started but I don't want to dive in precipitately and find I've made the wrong choice. Maybe you can help me here. Based on the limited evidence above - which is about the same as you would get on the average dust jacket - which of these three books would you prefer to read?


  1. The war story sounds interesting ... if it's differrent to what's already around! :-)

  2. Unquestionably, the thriller.
    Yet the Vichy story sounds interesting.

  3. No choice is wrong at the beginning.I have a cupboard full of exciting starts that faded off into the sunset by chapter three. Go with what tickles your fancy because if it doesn't grab you by the throat then how do you expect me to like it?

  4. Minx, I agree no choice is wrong at the beginning but...this time I'd like to write a book that has an inherently better chance of being published. I guess what I'm doing is conducting a focus group to find out what readers might want most. Then I'm prepared to write it. Or prostitute my art, if you like.

    Shameless, the Vichy story isn't as fun as it sounds. I would write it from the point of view of a collaborator involved in the deportation of Jews to the death camps and how he justified on a daily - maybe hourly - basis what he did. You can see an echo here with A Half Life Of One, can't you.

    Bernita - I'm glad you like the idea of the thriller. That too would have a gruesome subject matter but would allow me to employ lots of humour, something I'm keen to do in a longer piece of fiction where I think it might be quite a stretch to sustain the right atmosphere.

  5. If you want my opinion, Vichy France. The term "collaborator" strikes me as a facile label that probably covers a great range of complexities. I was reading an article in a respectable magazine recently that claimed the moral issues of the past were more black and white than the present. Humbug. It was 'the present' at the time and every bit as messy and complicated as 'the present' is now. It's this sort of thing that draws me to history.

    The black humour thriller might attract me, but for the humour rather than the thriller.

    But only you can judge what you want to write.