Thursday, 30 July 2009

Don't Stop Me

Now I am always buried in books, not that I am complaining as I am an avid bibliophile, but I am always looking out for new voices. Recently I heard some buzz about a debut British crime thriller entitled ‘STOP ME’ by TV writer / producer Richard Jay Parker coming next week from Independent publishers Alison and Busby.

I read the press release with interest because the serial killer [as protagonist] remains hugely popular in the crime-fiction genre; but this time we seem to have one operating ‘in concert’ on both sides of the Atlantic -
STOP ME is the fiendishly dark debut novel of Richard Jay Parker and is a uniquely addictive thriller that examines the torment of Leo Sharpe, a Londoner whose wife, Laura, inexplicably vanishes, and a frantic search that begins in the UK and extends to the tenebrous backdrop of post Mardis Gras New Orleans. John R Bookwalter is a man who claims to be the Vacation Killer but has been dismissed by police as a crank because he’s never left the state of Louisiana. How can he exert such control via his website and why would Leo entertain his claims that he has Laura captive?

STOP ME leads the reader to the darkest recesses of its backdrop and its character’s psyche as well as examining the phenomena of Internet celebrity, e-relationships and online obsession.

I was unfamiliar with Richard Jay Parker, so I contacted him, and he kindly provided Shots Magazine Blog with a piece that illustrates why those of you struggling without a publishing contract should never give up -

‘Soon-to-be-published.’ This is how I was described in Publishing News in 1999. I’d just written my first book and had inveigled my way onto the books of a reputable agency. A decade later I’m finally in print with my thriller STOP ME.

The report appeared after my first agency party and, after absorbing it, I thoroughly lulled myself into a false sense of security and believed that I’d made a successful leap from writing, script editing and producing for TV into novel writing.

My first book wasn’t a thriller. It was a warty character dissection set in a dystopian future (at least that’s what one editor called it) and while the agency set about placing it I wondered what I could possibly write next. My then agent valiantly and indefatigably submitted my first book and attracted interest, occasional disgust and admiration. No offers were forthcoming, however, so I set about writing another book. My agent hated it calling it ‘supernatural pornography’ but still encouraged me to write another.

This was when I wrote my first thriller. It was a pretty extreme piece but I enjoyed constructing the plot and story twists and knew I could write another. A similar situation arose with much positive feedback but no commitment from any publishers. However, I decided that I’d found the sort of books I wanted to write. Cue epiphany celebration. Cue my agent admitting that thrillers weren’t her bag and that I should attempt to find representation that felt more strongly about the genre.

So, feeling a little further away from being the soon-to-be-published author I’d been a year or two earlier, I set about trying to find a new agent and writing another thriller. This one attracted the interest of a major agency (who shouldn’t but shall remain nameless) that had me in for a meeting and asked me to do some rewrites. The agent and the exec seemed at loggerheads – agent thought it was ready to go to a publisher but exec felt it needed rewrites that she couldn’t define. They didn’t offer representation, which was handy because after I tried to rewrite the manuscript (with only their tacit notes) it made it easier for them to drop me like a hot brick with no detailed reason why. My emails and phone calls remained unreturned but it was becoming a familiar scenario.

I managed to attract the interest of my now agent with some sample chapters of a new thriller but, after writing it, the agency declined. Soon-to-be-published? Likely-to-go-postal. Luckily for me though my agent was poached to another more progressive agency and he encouraged me to submit the next thriller I wrote. By this time I’d completed another and it was met with more enthusiasm. An agency reader gave it their blessing and my agent submitted it and sold it to Allison & Busby within a few months. Almost ten years to the day that the article appeared in Publishing News.

I think soon-to-be-published is a state of mind rather than a state of being. If you’ve written a book that you firmly believe in and have had positive feedback from publishers (albeit without any offer) I think you can count yourself as soon-to-be-published. It’s what you do to bring yourself closer to the goal that counts. I’ve known writers who drag the corpse of their pet book round with them for years after it’s been rejected, writers who can’t move on to the next project. I’ve known writers who have refused to do further drafts on their work even when they’ve had solid interest. If you’re a writer you write. Just keep on writing and learning and exploiting any contacts you have until a state of mind finally becomes a state of being.

It seems that Richard Jay Parker has joined Tom Cain at The Curzon Group, a band of UK writers who promote British Thriller Writing; but considering the plot of STOP ME, it seems that serial killers are not put off by UK / US thriller genre boundaries.

It will be published by Allison and Busby on August 4th 2009 and in paperback January 2010. Available from Amazon

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