My comic gothic novella, with spooky pictures, is officially out there. Somewhere…
Of course, regular readers of this blog will know that it’s only a few days since I shouted hurray over the publication of Haunters, and some may be wondering what the hell is going on. Two debut novels? That’s not right, surely!
Well, right or not, it’s a sign of how little control I have over my career that after years of rejection and frustration, I made a simultaneous double breakthrough in my struggle to get into fiction. And on the same theme! No one was more surprised than I was. But believe me, no one is less inclined to complain about it now than I am. Hurray indeed!
But how did this come about? Well, back in early 2010, when I was still fighting Haunters into an acceptable first draft for commissioning editors to read, my agent called and told me that A & C Black were looking for illustrated stories for a new ‘high interest/low inclination’ series. By this they meant kids, mostly boys 10 to 14, who had sophisticated teenage tastes but little interest in reading -- kids who may yet pick up a book and have one last try, but who had all but given up on the world of books. It sounds high-blown, I know, but it felt like I was being given the chance to change their minds and win them back. Okay, high-blown and arrogant, but that’s honestly how it felt.
Anyway, one of the themes mentioned was ghost stories, and since I was just finishing Haunters -- an alternative ghost story where there are no real ghosts at all -- I had a lot of conventional ghost material left over. Using this, and inspired by a half-remembered childhood fascination with Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), I quickly put together a premise, wrote a pair of very short sample chapters, and sent it off to A & C Black with a sketch. Another iron was in the fire. But the fire wasn’t looking very hot.
Cutting a long story sort, AC Black expressed interest in the story around the time I was signing the contract for Haunters with Chicken House, though it took a long time for it to develop into something they would actually take on. I was only known for picture books, after all. But take it on they did, and then I had two stories to shepherd through the editorial process, at the same time, and two titles for the same age range, both seemingly about ghosts. And that’s hardly an ideal situation to be in – just ask a publisher! I’ve already had one bookseller get in touch and ask which of the two upcoming ghost books by a Thomas Taylor is the one I wrote.
But really, it’s fine. The two books are very different, and I’ve decided to stop wringing my hands over it. And I’m glad my agent talked me out of using a pseudonym – the publishing world is tough enough these days, without dividing myself up. And I think it’s clear the two books will have two distinct readerships. As for the ‘changing minds about reading’ thing, well, only time will tell if I got that right. Whatever, it was enormous fun to write!
I’m working on a second story about Dan and his mysterious ghostly sidekick, Simon, which is due out in 2013, provisionally entitled Dan and the Caverns of Bone. Do you detect a theme? Meanwhile, Dan and the Dead is available as both a hard copy and a kindle edition, and is easy to order through your local independent bookshop. And you can follow Dan’s ghost-busting exploits on his facebook page.
And lastly, do you remember that kid in your class, the weird one who kept talking to himself? The one who seemed to know too much, the one everyone laughed at? Well, next time something goes bump in the night, just pray he remembers you!