With Before and After now out in the world and getting some great reviews (that’s been the aspect of publishing that’s surprised me the most), I’ve started to think about what comes next. It’s hard in some ways to think about moving on, without feeling like you’re somehow abandoning your first book. It feels like pushing a fledgling out of the nest in many ways. But a piece of advice I heard and that rings true for me, is that the best marketing you can do for your first book is to write your second. Also, I’m a “right, next” sort of guy.
This seems to be a recurring theme with the Indie Author career route – build momentum, keep writing, people find one book and then look into you as an author and hopefully buy and read your other books. There’s a school of thought that this approach means you should write in a very narrowly defined genre. That way people finding your sci-fi book aren’t going to look at your other output and get disappointed that you’ve written a horror and a police procedural.
I’m not sure how I feel about that logic.
I love sci-fi and post-apocalyptic and I’ve got lots of ideas that live in that area (including a sequel to Before and After – Beforerer and Afterer as my friend Jeff decreed it should be called), but I also love detective fiction and general literature. And children’s books. And Graphic novels. And very weird web stuff. In short, I’m not sure I buy into genre-grinding. I think I’m going to write what I find exciting and hope that readers respect that I’m not treating them like animals who’ll only ever eat one sort of feed. I also hope they’ll forgive me for referring to them as animals in that metaphor, and casting myself as the benevolent farmer. WTF Shanahan.
So, what’s the next book…well, it’s about the M6. Yes, the motorway.
People who have known me for a while might be aware that I have a small obsession with the M6. I’ve lived within hearing distance of the M6 for my entire life and in 2008 I wrote a sketch show about it that was called 230 Miles of Love. The slightly weird thing about that was that it was a satcom – i.e. a piece of locative media, where the sketches only played when the GPS told them to. This meant that the sketches knew where they were. For example one of the sketches was called Who Wants To Take The Toll and it ended differently, depending on whether you took the M6 toll or not. It was fairly ropey quality because it was all done in a blur of two days to write, record and produce it, but it was a great experience.
I’d decided that I’d like to write about the M6 and then the following day, I was chatting on Twitter to the world’s greatest flautist Michael Walsh (and if you haven’t given his Quarehawk a listen yet then shame on you) and he pointed me towards Song of A Road, a BBC Radio Ballad which took a musical documentary approach to the construction of the M1. It was so lyrical and vital that it really struck a chord. It seemed like a blessing on the project and locked it in that 232 Miles Of: was the next book.
The book is a thematic continuation of 230 Miles of Love. It will be 19 shorter stories, some interconnected, that all relate to the M6 in some way. Some will be personal and based on my own experiences and imagination, but others will be based on other M6 users’ input. What do you think of the M6? Do you love it? Hate it? Lust after it? If you think about the M6, what stories does it bring to your mind? There’s a form you can fill in if you’d like to share and it’s all anonymous (if you wish) and I’d love to hear your views.
What do you think of the idea? I’ve been really enjoying the looks on people’s faces when I tell them I’m writing a book about the M6. Generally, whenever I see those sort of reactions I know that I’m doing the right things.