Big congratulations to Richard Whittle whose new book, ‘The Man Who Played Trains’ is out today published by Urbane Publications. Richard took part in my Urbane Blog Event in March and it is a real pleasure to have him back on my blog with a guest post.
Sonya, thank you for inviting me to write a Guest Post, I really appreciate it! In March you were kind enough to interview me and to publish an extract from my novel, The Man Who Played Trains, which will be published on 25th May by Urbane Publications. My publisher calls it an intelligent thriller. What more could I ask?
The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Fifteen years ago I was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award and received a runner-up prize, presented by Ian Rankin – who, tongue in cheek, asked me not to set any novels in Edinburgh. He also told me to keep writing, encouragement I didn’t need at the time but which I would have appreciated many times before, and since, that day. Like so many writers, I’d had short stories published, but no full-length novels. I had been submitting novels to publishers and agents for years, receiving those negative responses we all know so well. Also, occasionally, a few words of encouragement.
The best writing advice and encouragement I ever had was from Random House. Years before my modest success with the Dagger I submitted the typescript of a full novel to the company (probably as part of a scattergun approach to publishers and agents, I cannot even remember which novel I sent). Somehow it fell into the hands of one of the company’s directors and he personally edited, with a lot of red pen, the first three chapters of my book. The letter accompanying the returned typescript ran to two single-space pages of helpful critique and suggestions. He ended by assuring me that one day I would be published. He did add that it might take some time. He was right.
A few years ago I became so disheartened with the responses to my submissions that I gathered up all my correspondence and ceremoniously shredded the lot. Regretfully, the Random House letter died in this purge – though if I am honest with myself I see little point in keeping such things – I read somewhere that we are known for what we do today, not what we have done in the past. That is not always true (think Mandela, Einstein, Pankhurst, Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky…) but it is sound advice that keeps me on my toes.
So where are all these novels, you might ask? Complete and incomplete typescripts litter my hard drives – stories not dead but merely sleeping, awaiting modification and renovation. Many stem from a stage when I wrote only for myself (I had spent far too much time submitting my work to agents or publishers and not enough time writing). During this time, a period of about four years, if I tired of the novel I was writing I put it aside and started another. It is rather like having a big garage full of old cars, some in bits, some almost ready to run (apologies for the analogy if you know nothing about old cars. I am sure you can think of another).
One of these restarts and rewrites was Playpits Park, a novel I self-published on Amazon. To my surprise it acquired more 5-star reviews that I could ever have wished for. The Kindle version was downloaded more than six thousand times.
So who do I write for now, myself or the reader? That is not an easy question to answer. When you read The Man Who Played Trains you enter a world I inhabited before you, a world built from real and imagined places, real events and fictional events. I believe Robert Harris said it first – there are holes in history that you can fall through. This story, set in Edinburgh (sorry, Ian), the far north of Scotland around ten years ago and in Germany in wartime, is a crime novel, a mystery, a thriller and adventure story. My greatest wish is that you enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing it. That makes it all worthwhile.
I wrote at the start of this post that The Man Who Played Trains is not my first novel. Nor is it about trains, though they do appear now and again. Thank you for reading this guest post until its end. That, too, makes it worthwhile!
Buy The Man Who Played Trains from Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-man-who-played-trains/
Also at Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Amazon and all good bookshops.