I’m having a very Craven Place sort of a week. For a start, I’ve approved the cover image, and the finished version is sitting in my inbox right now (in fact it arrived with final adjustments as I was typing a few paragraphs down… and I’m can’t stop grinning). I love it. This is actually the second potential cover I’ve seen. Emma Barnes (of snowangels.org) showed me one option a couple of weeks ago that was beautiful, and which I almost snatched up just because it was beautiful. In the end I turned it down, because I didn’t feel it was quite right for the story. I’ve wondered whether I was right to do so ever since, at least until she emailed me a mock up of her second run at it last night. She’s absolutely nailed the brief. You’ll see for yourself soon enough.
The manuscript itself is away with my editor of choice, one Mr Danny Evarts, and that seems to be ticking over nicely. With a bit of luck I should have ebook versions ready to go off to reviewers very soon. I’ve drawn up my own lists, but if you’re a reviewer who enjoys murder mysteries, ghost stories, or both, please drop me a line. If you’re not a reviewer but know one who is interested in that sort of thing, please let them know where to find me (or let me know how to get in touch with them). It may be that I’ll find them anyway, but I’d hate to miss someone who’d love the book.
At the same time as I’m contacting reviewers, everybody signed up to my newsletter (signup box on the right, at the top of the page) will be offered the ebook version for free. This will be a few weeks before the book is available to buy on the Kindle and in paperback (it will be launched at the start of June, but newsletter members will get their advance copies in the next week or two), and a few months before it’s available to buy for the Nook, Kobo, etc. Go and sign up now, or you’ll miss it.
Although things are going well with the book, I’m running about a fortnight behind my schedule. The fault is entirely mine, because just as I was about to send it off to Danny so he could get to work I had what is known in the trade as The Wobble.
Yes, that’s an actual writing term. Ask any author. Even if I just made it up, they’ll know what I mean anyway.
I proofread it and panicked. What I noticed, that I hadn’t before, is that it isn’t about anything.
Oh, stuff heppens. There’s plot, and an eccentric group of characters, and mystery… but there’s no theme. My first novel Cuckoo is at heart about identity and prejudice. Thy Fearful Symmetry is about faith, and what the word means to different people. Hiram Grange and the Nymphs of Krakow is, despite its pulp heart, also about identity and what’s left when your world is ripped away.
Craven Place… isn’t about anything.
I delayed sending it away and started on what I thought would be a back-breaking new edit, to find a theme and pull it to the fore.
Instead, I read it and came away puzzled. I still liked the book. In fact, I enjoyed it more on that read than any previous ones. It’s fun, and quirky, and spooky. I made hardly any changes at all even though it isn’t about anything except, I hope, telling a cracking little story.
That’s good enough for me. Why on earth should I force it to be something isn’t?
I think that panic came mostly from pretentiousness, as though just telling a good story wasn’t good enough. I can still bluff an interviewer if I have to. I can say that the book is about perception, and how it shapes reality. That’s a cheat though, and I know it. Murder mysteries and ghost stories almost always have perception and reality at their heart. They wouldn’t be mysterious otherwise. The Sherlock Holmes canon can be described the same way if you want to write a thesis on it, but that’s still academic nonsense. In real life they’re just stories in which interesting characters get involved in tightly plotted events. That’s what makes them such fun – their weight doesn’t come from a thematic brush with the meaning of life. It comes instead from the density of the plot and the sheer joy of the characters.
Craven Place fits that category of fiction, I hope (although I’m no Arthur Conan Doyle). If it’s good it’s because the plot, atmosphere, and characters grab your attention and take you along for the ride. If it’s bad, it’s because they don’t.
And that’s okay. My inner literary snob will have to step outside for this one. I’ll let him back in when he calms down a little. He’s being a bit of a fool, pretending he doesn’t gobble up this sort of story as a reader.
Possibly, somebody else will point out what the book’s theme is in the future (because stories are only ever half-finished until a reader fills in the gaps). If they do so, I am going to nod and pretend that I always meant it to be so.
When that happens, promise me that you’ll keep a straight face. No need to give the game away.
Not long to go now!
Currently reading (novel): The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
Currently reading (novel): The Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris
Currently reading (collection): The DIamond Lens and other stories, by Fitz-James O’Brien
Currently reading (anthology): The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stores, edited by Anne and Jeff Vandermeer
Currently reading (non-fiction): The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosner