Monday, January 14, 2008


Five chapters into THE LOVERS, the new Parker book, and just as I'm starting to hit my stride, I realize that I'm now going to be sidetracked for a while. In an ideal world, there would be one book upon which to concentrate, so that each day time could be spent on that novel and a little progress could be made. In practice, though, that's just not possible. The list of distractions has begun to lengthen, and while some can be dismissed quickly, others cannot.

THE REAPERS is now four months from publication. Even though, in theory, it is finished, in practice it is not. The copy edited manuscript is due to arrive this week - or, rather, the first copy edited manuscript, as the UK publisher has reached that stage in the process before the US publisher - and will need to be returned by the start of February. It represents the final opportunity to make significant changes to the book, but as I have already moved on to the writing of the next novel it will be much harder for me to think myself back into THE REAPERS than it was before I submitted it. Reading the copy edited manuscript means trying to juggle a number of balls at once: checking the copy editor's changes; trying to spot any errors that I might have missed myself, but which might not be familiar to the copy editor; and keeping the overall narrative in mind at the same time with one eye on areas that might be improved. It's like trying to look at a tree and a forest simultaneously.

By the time I've finished the UK manuscript, the US manuscript will have arrived. I'll then have to apply the changes that were made to the UK manuscript to the second manuscript, while also trying to keep a note of any useful changes or errors that the US copy editor might have spotted that should be applied to the UK manuscript at the proof stage. This will be complicated by the fact that I have to travel to the US at the start of February for meetings and research, so I won't be at home surrounded by my research books and notes when I'm doing the American edits. The solution, in all probability, will be to photocopy the UK manuscript and bring that along as well, and hope any further problems that arise can easily be checked on the Internet, or can wait until I return home.

In the meantime, THE UNQUIET has just been published in Ireland and the UK, and I'm trying to do stuff to keep myself in the public eye in the hope that it will raise awareness of the novel by a kind of osmosis. Thus I've taken on some reviews for radio and TV, including ploughing through a long, if fascinating, history of the CIA. (I'll also be worrying about how THE UNQUIET will sell in paperback. Writers, upon publication of their own book, start looking at what else is out at the same time, and what kind of competition it constitutes. We also start fretting about the possibility that our time has passed; that everyone who wanted to read the book has already bought it in hardback; and that bookstores have somehow neglected to unpack the boxes containing our books, and they are now languishing under the Christmas returns. This is compounded, in the case of the UK, by first week jitters, and the fact that, although books now officially go on sale on the Thursday of each week, thelists are compiled from sales commencing earlier in the week, so that a book's first week on sale is effectively a half week for the purposes of the bestseller lists. Complicated, isn't it?)

Other little things also crop up: the first chapter of THE REAPERS is too long for inclusion as a teaser in the US paperback of THE UNQUIET. Should the prologue be used instead? The cover comes through, adapted from its first incarnation to more closely resemble the original US hardback. I like it, but there's a minor issue of font size to be addressed. Meanwhile, the US cover for THE REAPERS is now being looked at again, and is likely to change significantly from earlier suggestions. The UK publishers have been working on ideas for additional content, or 'added value', to go with THE REAPERS. If that is to be written, then I'll need to know soon, as it will represent a significant investment of time.

The script for THE ERLKING needs further work, and I'm due to meet the producers at the end of January to discuss progress. I'll need to set aside some time over the next week or two in order to do a rewrite, and then I'm going to hand it over to the director, who is also the co-writer, as I won't have time to do anything else with it until the summer, if then. I find it hard to keep one part of my mind thinking about that project while the other tries to keep THE LOVERS simmering. It's also alien territory to me, as I've mentioned before. I'm not comfortable with the process, and that has contributed to delays in tackling the script.

Various requests to contribute to anthologies, etc. keep arriving, but I really don't have time to do them. I have an idea for a short story, but I still haven't managed to write it. Two books have arrived seeking approving quotes, but I'm still working on the review books, and I also have a pile of stuff that I was rather hoping to read for pleasure. There's an author I'd like to interview, but I don't see how I can. It's disappointing for her publisher, and I'd like to help, but the dates don't suit, even if I could find time to read her latest book and do the research for the interview.

Tour dates are being lobbed around. I'm losing most of the first two weeks of March, all of May and June, and probably part of July or August as well. April is problematical too, as I have a minor, if nasty, 'procedure' to undergo, and am likely to be out of sorts, and out of circulation, for a week to ten days afterwards. Suddenly, the prospect of delivering THE LOVERS by next October comes to seem less easily attainable.

Still, I managed to get almost 2000 words written today, and this column. The frustrating part is knowing that I may not get as much work done again on THE LOVERS for a couple of weeks at least, and I'm kind of enjoying the writing of it. I also know that a structured approach to its writing - a routine, by any other name - is essential if progress is to be made. Sometimes, 'having written' is better than 'writing', but writing, for all the times that it can be
difficult (or, perhaps, because it is often difficult), is still immensely fulfilling.

Unfortunately, the business of being a writer occasionally gets in
the way.

This week John read

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason (and some of The Truth Commissioner by David Park, and a little of Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

and listened to

In Rainbows by Radiohead (bought, like a good Luddite, on CD)
May Your Heart Be the Map by Epic 45
Autumn Fallin' by Jaymay