The Next Big Thing – The Flesh Market
The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” three writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read. It’s a meme that’s spread far and wide, and clicking through links can take you through a web of stories that you might be enjoying next year, or the year after that.
I was tagged by crime writer JJ Marsh, author of Behind Closed Doors.
JJ’s novel is sitting on my Kindle unread at the moment, but I’m dying to get into it.
The authors I have tagged in my turn appear at the bottom of this post.
What is the working title for your book?
Publically, it’s been referred to only as The December Book until today. This is because I started it in December (I know… genius!). Not last December, though. Just a December. However, it has a secret working title too, that may or may not end up on the cover someday. It’s called The Flesh Market.
Where did the idea come from for this book?
I’ve long wanted to find a way to tell the story of Williams Burke and Hare, two of the most successful serial killers the United Kingdom ever produced (they trounced Jack’s total, by a considerable margin). Irish immigrant workers, they cottoned on to the burgeoning black market in corpses that abounded in the early Nineteenth century, whereby grave robbers sold their spoils to the Edinburgh medical schools for dissection. Burke and Hare realised that they could save a lot of time and energy spent digging up the recently deceased by just murdering people instead, then pretending they’d dug them up illegally. Wheels within wheels. By letting everybody believe that they were doing something slightly less appalling than they actually were, they got away with it for ages. When they were finally caught, there was a media frenzy around the trial that you’d recognise from the kind of histrionic celebrity trials we see today.
What genre does your book fall under?
Definitely horror, though not in the way you’d expect. More of a historical chiller, I suppose.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
All of the characters were real people, and I’ve researched them extensively. Their likenesses are well recorded, so it’s difficult to imagine them being played by anybody other than themselves.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ah, sorry, not yet. Come back when it’s finished. Have to preserve some mystery.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I won’t know that until it’s finished, and I can decide on what help I need to find the readers who’ll enjoy it most.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Oh, how I love your use of the past tense, imaginary interviewer. I look forward to the day when I can use it too. So far, The Flesh Market has taken nearly two years to put down in first draft. In part, it’s taken so long because the history is research heavy. I’d love tell you that the novel will be finished this year, but it’s already shown itself to be one of those things that won’t be rushed.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m not sure. it shares sensibilities with what Dan Simmons did with Drood and The Terror, taking real history and blurring its edges.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Edinburgh, mostly. I lived in Glasgow for many years, and adore it as a modern, vibrant city. Edinburgh, just an hour or so along the motorway, I love for the Old Town. It’s a beautifully preserved section of the city that drips with blood and history, and can’t help but excite the imagination. The place could have been designed to stimulate writers who lean to the darker side of fiction. I’ve always wanted to write something that makes proper use of the place.
What else about your book might piqué the reader’s interest?
The reason I’ve waited so long to write about Burke and Hare is that I didn’t want to just retell what is already a well documented story. I was waiting to do something sideways with it, I suppose. I think I’ve found the best of both worlds – a way to examine how ordinary people can evolve into monsters, while adding an edge of unpredictable fantasy that ensures the story can still surprise even if you’re familiar with the history. How I’m doing it… well… you’ll have to wait and see. All I’ll hint at is that the story begins with the Cadaver Riots of 1826, and that’ not something that’s going to turn up on Google.
The writers I’m tagging, whether they like it or not, are:
Mark West. Since discovering the small press in 1999, Mark has published more than 60 stories in various publications around the world. His first collection, Strange Tales, appeared from Rainfall Books in 2003 and was followed in 2005 by the novel In The Rain With The Dead, from Pendragon Press. Subsequent novellas have included Conjure and The Mill. Mark’s chapbook What Gets Left Behind appeared from Spectral Press in September 2012 (though it sold out four months prior to that).
Kathleen Jones. Brought up on a hill farm in the lake district, Kathleen Jones lived in Africa and the Middle East for 10 years, where she worked in broadcasting. She began writing at school and has published more than a dozen books, biography, fiction and poetry. She has taught creative writing in UK universities and been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in order to keep body and soul in the same place at the same time. Kathleen has four children and now lives in Italy, near the marble quarries of Carrara, where her partner is a sculptor. She tries not to drink too much wine in the piazza and is currently working on a new novel, a collection of poetry and a biography of Lakeland poet Norman Nicholson.
Richard Salter. Richard Salter is a British writer and editor based just outside Toronto, Canada. He has sold over twenty stories to diverse anthologies, including Solaris Rising, Machine of Death II, and Warhammer: Gotrek & Felix The Anthology. He edited the acclaimed Doctor Who anthology Short Trips:Transmissions, and in 2012 helped launch Nightscape Press with his original shared world anthology World’s Collider.
Currently Reading: Stage Whispers by Kealan Patrick Burke