“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
― Charles Bukowski
What awful timing, or perhaps it’s related. My new novel UnfinishedBusiness is published and I’m struck down by what feels like something I don’t want to name, no, not a STD, but writer’s block. Despite a launch party last night that included four Spanish women without word of english to their name arriving to buy a signed copy of the novel for one of their brothers, I’m looking at Unfinished Business with the sense it was a fluke; never to be repeated.
I can’t recall if I’ve written about writer’s block before, I must’ve blocked it out, which is exactly the sort of crap joke that suggests it’s time to step away from the keyboard and do something else. Anything. Just stop writing. Mind you writers aren’t capable of much else, unless it’s the…
It’s not news that I’m a bookworm, I’ve been reading avidly and collecting books since I was 6. Books always represented escapism and knowledge…but escapism first and foremost.
I’m also in love with language, the way words can be weaved and put together. I studied English, German and Spanish at a high level and taught myself some Italian. Words have always fascinated me, there is something…magical about what I call a “tight line.” In fact I’ve been known to read tight lines several times in a row when I encounter them – I savour them. Yes, I’m one of those people.
Whilst I’ve always been a bookworm, I became a beta reader only (kind of) recently. But I must say it’s been the most amazing experience. To be able to read a chapter or even just a few paragraphs only minutes after they’ve escaped from the writer’s mind and imagination is…well, it’s everything.
I started reading Unfinished Business by Thomas Hocknell back in 2017 and I was gripped from the start. I can be an impatient type – especially when it comes to books I’m enjoying, I’ll read something I really like in one sitting sometimes – but in this particular case I had no choice but to wait as the novel was far from finished when I first got my hands on it. I must have been a bit of a nightmare because there were numerous occasions when I asked Tom if he’d written anything new, (anything at all, even just a few lines?!) because I was dying to know what happened next. I was urging him to write, poor man – as if he didn’t have a life and other things to do!
I won’t even pretend I was an ideal beta reader. For all the: “your characters are well fleshed out, this is a gorgeous line, that scene was breathtaking…etc…” there was also: “this situation doesn’t make sense, you’ve got to add some scenes so the connection between those 2 is more believable because right now I’m not buying it, and what was that? he/she wouldn’t say that…etc”
Actually, that is an ideal beta reader – what I meant was that Tom probably wished at times that I was just a little less demanding.
In any case I’ve been with the novel for quite a while now, all the way to the editing stages and finally publication. It’s coming out in about 10 days and I’ve lost count of the number of times I read it. Which is why it was such an emotional moment when I finally got an actual copy of it last Friday. It might not have been as defining a moment for me as it was for Tom – because, you know, he actually wrote it – but I did feel a little bit like a godparent when a baby comes into the world. It might not be my baby, but I love it all the same and somehow feel responsible for it.
So I read the novel again – in book form for the first time! – this weekend in my garden. I admit without any shame whatsoever that I cried when I turned the last page. I felt very proud to have played even a small tiny part in the creative process.
What kind of a novel is Unfinished Business? I’m fearful to say very much because if I start I will go on and on, and there will inevitably be spoilers (this isn’t meant to be a review as I can’t write them – I invariably say too much)
Let’s refer to the back cover to give you an idea:
“The Life Assistance Agency finds itself at a loss after returning from Europe.
Ben is determined to stay away from anything involving Angels, when the phone rings to invite him to write the biography of a self-deluded singer from defunct rave group Elev-8.
At his mansion in Sussex they meet the singer’s right-hand man, Billy `blind’ Fury, a retired wrestler, and his beautiful secretary Amber. Both of whom have plans for the Life Assistance Agency far beyond writing down half-recalled anecdotes from the early 90s pop charts…”
If I absolutely had to, I would describe it as a thriller…a thriller which involves the hopeless but v. funny duo Ben and Scott whom we last saw in The Life Assistance Agency – let’s note though that Unfinished Business is a stand alone novel, there really is no requirement to have read the first one to enjoy its sequel.
So Unfinished Business is a thriller…with a little bit of fantasy, wit and humour, with a love story and deep observations about life, a thriller that’s also incredibly well-written with enough tight lines to satisfy the most demanding literature lovers. Tom consistently blows my mind – and my mind is not at all easily blown – because of his fluency with language, the ease with which he writes perfectly gorgeous sentences that are scattered throughout his manuscript like sparkling stars in an already stunning purple summer sky.
Oh, look at that, I’m so in awe of his talent I’m getting lyrical myself!
In all seriousness, what I love about his writing is how he switches between…let’s say self-deprecatory wit and…poetic prose…seemingly effortlessly. I’ll be sitting there smiling at a humorous line when suddenly a little jewel of a sentence comes along to take my breath away. Or there’s a tense scene with guns and immediately afterwards a magnificent description of a pier…or something.
It’s like: just when you thought you were reading a book that’s actually really funny,and rather exciting too, the author hits you with the reminder that he can actually write, and write bloody well too.
Did I digress? I probably did a little…so, revenons à nos moutons as the French say…
To conclude, Unfinished Business is very much along the lines of what P. G. Wodehouse might have written if he was around today – Unfinished Business is P. G. Wodehouse with guns and car chases.
Ultimately, Unfinished Business is a bloody good story – it’s pure blissful escapism…which is the main reason I started reading in the first place.
PS: I loved The Life Assistance Agency – Tom’s first book – but I can confidently say that he’s managed to write a second novel that’s better than his first. And yes, it’s ok for me to write this as I’ve already told him…several times – he can’t have minded because he still thanked me in the acknowledgements.
Never judge a book by its cover – What you should think.
Always judge a book by its cover – What people really think.
This is one of those blogs on which I upload the picture before I’ve written anything. I’m probably too delighted to put words together or something, but after a few years of tapping away like a mice doing home improvements the new book is ready. Not only that but it has a cover. Unfinished Business, the stand-alone sequel to the Life Assistance Agency, to provide its full title, is ready for the world that is not necessarily ready for it.
The cover is amazing, which I can comfortably claim because I had nothing to do with it. It is courtesy of http://www.nicandlou.com whom also did the first one, so there’s that all important continuity familiar to dog breeders and Star Wars fanatics.
“True life is elsewhere. We are not in the world.”Arthur Rimbaud
#Writingprompts, if their 20,000 Instagram usage suggests, are very popular, although some way off #cutekitteninbucket. I’ve never been a fan of writing prompts. They sound too deliberate, like intending to do shots before you’ve left the house instead of spontaneously deciding eight tequilas is a good idea from the moment you reach the pub. To be fair life is a writing prompt, as anyone who’s written a To-do list with testify. However, I was recently exposed to the most fantastic inspiration for writing at my local B&Q. No, I wasn’t lost, nor was I asking directions to the nearest record shop.
These days there are hash tags for everything, although there’s an odd sweet sense of fresh territory when coining a new one on Instagram and #DIYWritingPrompts was a new one. At least it was yesterday. Imagine being…
Most authors will be familiar with having finished writing a novel. Sometimes it’s completed for as long as 24 hours before another rewrite is underway. That’s fine. That’s how novels are written, but my 79,000 words of Unfinished Business have been sent to the publisher. There are no more late night edits to be undone in the morning. It will be bound up in proofs the next time I see it, safe from any more changes. It seems a long time ago that a friend suggested I write a short film and I came up with the idea of a retired 80s wrestler who morphed into a character even bigger than Ricky ‘Nasty’ Bashcraft, or Giant Haystacks.
Just as its proprietor Scott Wildblood needed a wingman The Life Assistance Agency now has a companion, as there’s nothing worse* than a novel sitting alone, full of friends and enemies bouncing off the…
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway
With New Year intentions often to write a novel in a year, or in some cases a month, this is a good time to consider what’s so bloody great about being a writer. I do wonder if some people get writing confused with reading. One is a strangely magical experience, which tingles otherwise untouched parts of you, like sausage rolls but without the guilt. The other is the challenge of typing whilst simultaneously wringing your hands and swearing quietly.
Perhaps it’s despair at such sudden disappearance of Yule Logs from the shops after Christmas that drives people into the collective arms of writing groups, or perhaps it’s just to emulate all those fantastic books read during the holidays. But don’t be rash, those rather delicious afternoons with nothing to do but…
I started it bottle blonde and I’m ending it as nature intended: brunette.
I finished my Master’s.
I argued with far too many people on Twitter.
I read a truckload of books, too many to count, but here are the ones I particularly enjoyed – in case anyone is looking for random recommendations:
The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
Patronising Bastards – Quentin Letts
Lethal White – Robert Galbraith
The Nix – Nathan Hill
The Destroyers – Christopher Bollen
See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt
Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood
This could hurt – Jillian Medoff
Marlena – Julie Buntin
Sing, unburied, sing – Jesmyn Ward
The Chalk Man – C. J. Tudor
Grist Mill road – Christopher J. Yates
Death in Bordeaux – Allan Massie
Dark summer in Bordeaux – Allan Massie
Cold winter in Bordeaux – Allan Massie
End games in Bordeaux – Allan Massie
Magpie murders – Anthony Horowitz
Ill Will – Dan Chaon
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
Narcissus and Goldmund – Hermann Hesse
Sapiens: a brief history of humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow – Yuval Noah Harari
The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton
The death of Mrs Westaway – Ruth Ware
The woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
Snow Blind – Ragnar Jónasson
Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
The Marriage Of Opposites – Alice Hoffman
And my all-time favourite this year, and also the one I finished only yesterday: The improbability of love – Hannah Rothschild.
(I absolutely adored this book)
I did take too many selfies…I could say I’ll try to stop doing that but…who would I be kidding – I’ll most probably be as bad next year.
I ate too much generally (definitely far too much chocolate) drank too much alcohol but I worked out almost everyday. I took long walks on the beach and out in the countryside, I got lost among trees, I danced in my house, outside it, I laughed, I cried, I tried hard to remember that life is all too short and you’ve got to take the time to do the things that matter to you. I’m stating the obvious, I know, but who cares, it’s the truth.
2018 started with a real low: I lost my beloved grandmother in January, and ended with a high: there was a very special 2 year anniversary this December…such is life: pain & happiness and a range of other emotions in between.
Happy New Year to all of you lovely, lovely people – I’ve got high hopes for 2019.
*the pics are last week’s (19th) before a night out in London – I haven’t taken any selfies since…they might as well be the last ones to appear on this blog in 2018*
I’ve just finished reading Pantheon by Eric Syrdal (his blog can be found Here )
I don’t do book reviews for a good reason: I’m no good at writing them. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say Pantheon is an epic, unforgettable read: it’s a novel told in free verse poetry and I could not put it down. Granted, I was already an Eric fan before picking up his book because he’s a master word weaver…but this blew me away. If you’re looking for a new book recommendation, you could do much, much worse.