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Monday, 15 September 2014

Writing - Never give up!

Fifty years ago, the saga began with an idea. It took a while but now, after many setbacks, it’s coming to fruition.

The saga has the over-arching title of The Chronicles of Floreskand, the first book of which Wings of the Overlord, was published this month, September, 2014.

In 1974 I was serving in the RN in Malta. My wife Jennifer and I joined a karate club – though it wasn’t karate, rather Chinese chu’an sho (Chanquanshu), or a form of kung fu. At the time, I was still trying to get a book published – I’d been close, but no cigar, no contract. I got to talking to one of the advanced martial artists, Gordon Faulkner, and also his wife Maria. They told me about his hobby, which was world-building, which he began in earnest some ten years earlier (1964). He read widely but was a fan of science fiction and fantasy. The world he’d already created – Floreskand - was considerable and impressive. He was serving in the RAF and hoped one day in the future to write stories about his fantasy land. Having heard some outlines, I was enthusiastic and suggested I could put the flesh on his bones. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at this agreement, he was posted back to UK. We had to rely on snail mail in those days, and mainly hand-written letters and typewriters. The germ began in 1974 and gradually grew into a full-blown novel, Wings of the Overlord.

By then, I too had returned to the UK and was serving on a seagoing ship. It would be 1979 when the book was finished, as chapters were sent to-and-fro in the mail… More time passed very slowly as the sample chapters and a synopsis were sent to one publisher or an agent, then after rejection to another, and so on. As much as I loved the book, I couldn’t commit the time on the planned sequels until we had secured a contract for Wings.

Although I worked on other projects, I never gave up on Wings, revising and sending it out, again and again.

Gordon and I kept in touch intermittently, living at two ends of the country, when not being sent elsewhere by the services.

Over the intervening years we both kept busy. You can read much more about Gordon here

I had belief in Wings for a number of reasons. Not least, I lent a copy of the manuscript to a sub lieutenant on my ship, HMS Mermaid and he was so driven to finish it, he even took it on the bridge during his Officer of the Watch duty! If it could grab a reader that powerfully, surely there had to be something in it?

One 1980 rejection read, ‘To be honest, I liked it very much which is why I have hung on to it this long. I have tried to arouse interest in it from other editors but, when confronted with harsh facts like the cutting of 100 titles, the loss of 90 jobs, I’m afraid my enthusiasm has met with little effect…’

Another: ‘… short of cash as everybody else, and for this reason it is very difficult now to get a book as exceptional and hard to classify as yours into print…’

And, in 1981: ‘I’m afraid it is a near-miss. You’ve created a believable world and you write quite well. The detail and the scope are impressive… I found the use of invented terms like ‘varteron’ rather disconcerting…’

I even approached a TV network: ‘This manuscript contains some compelling sequences with striking imagery, but the story would be a very expensive proposition for TV, even without its special effects. At the same time I feel that it would be very demanding viewing for the average TV audience…’ Now, of course, the technology has caught up with the imagination of writers…

Gordon and I have had disappointments, notably when two small independent publishers accepted it and even got to the cover illustration stage both times, but then they went under financially. Another time, an agent enthused over it and that sank when he was sent to prison for misappropriating writers’ money…

Finally, I saw an article in the Writers’ News that mentioned a new publisher of historical and medieval fantasy, Knox Robinson. I followed the guidelines and Gordon and I were offered a contract for The Chronicles of Floreskand. The series stretches well beyond the initial plotted five books.

The moral of this is that writers should never give up. Though I appreciate that not every writer has fifty years left to wait for success!



Nancy Jardine said...

I definitely agree. A manuscript might sit in the cupboard for years but if you're like me, it niggles..until it's brought out, gets a dust down and a lot of rewrites. Phoenix-like it appears. .

Nik said...

Thanks for the comment, Nancy. I'm hoping that Wings will fly like the mythical phoenix and not burn! :)