It’s been a matter of pride with me that in all the mptymumble years I’ve been part of the Dead Guy team I’ve never missed a week without getting someone else to cover for me.
But I missed yesterday. And I have no excuse whatever, except that it fell through a hole in my rapidly ageing brain. So, to anyone out there who noticed my absence (not that you would, since Terri filled the space, which used to be hers anyway, more than adequately; hope you feel better soon, Terri) I apologize. And since our good friend Erin is still on sick leave, and with something far more excusable than age-related holes in the brain, I hope she won’t mind if I make up for my deficiency by borrowing her day.
On the plus side, being a day late has given me something to post about. The OMG moment when I realized I’d forgotten to post happened at about nine o’clock last night, walking down a main thoroughfare in the beautiful Yorkshire city of Leeds. We still had a long drive home in front of us, and I don’t function well after about 10pm these days (or before 10am, for that matter), so I decided it was best left till this morning if what I wrote was to make any kind of sense.
So why was I in Leeds, a long drive away from home, you may (or possibly may not) be asking. That’s an easy one to answer. A book launch. My good friend Chris Nickson has a new book out in the world, and his launches are always good fun. And they happen in Leeds, because that’s mainly where his books are set. Occasionally Chesterfield; once or twice Seattle; but out of eighteen novels, fourteen are set in Leeds.
Eighteen novels... Lots of authors have eighteen novels out there; I could probably name half a dozen in as many seconds if I turned my mind to it. But if I tell you Chris’s first novel came out almost exactly six years ago, does that make it sound a tad more impressive? Maybe it’s not quite up there with Danielle Steele’s six a year, and I’m not sure about Nora Roberts/J D Robb, but he’s certainly running our good friends J Cohen and E J Copperman pretty close, and they have quite an impressive work rate between them.
I tell him every time I see him that I don’t know how he does it, and his reply is always the same – he just writes a thousand words a day, and because he loves doing it, he writes that thousand every day, including weekends, holidays and vacations. And actually, the maths adds up. Three hundred and sixty-five thousand words comes in at four novels a year. Factor in some revision and editing time, and suddenly eighteen books in six years doesn’t seem such a mountain to climb.
So why did it take me twelve years to complete one of the several unpublished novels in my cupboard? And why did the first draft of the one I’m currently working on happen so long ago that I’m not willing to admit I’m that old?
Maybe some novels take longer to cook than others. (Good excuse.) Or maybe it’s a slightly different twist on what Jeff C described earlier this week; maybe everyday life gets in the way instead of acting as the distraction my conscious mind needs to allow my subconscious free rein to untangle the knots. (But if that’s so, it means I let it, and I shouldn’t.) Or maybe some people work more slowly than others; several writers whose work I enjoy only produce a book every two or three years, if that.
Or maybe, and this is my favourite option, it’s symptomatic of the way we’re all different. And wouldn’t the world be a bland and wearisome place if we weren’t?
PS Chris Nickson’s new book is called The New Eastgate Swing. 1950s Leeds, with more than a hint of noir, the Cold War, jazz with a little skiffle on the side (I understand there’s a playlist on Spotify, whatever that means), and even a touch of romance. Absolutely nothing not to like.