As the New Year draws ever closer, it is time to take stock, to look back and consider achievements, projects, thoughts. But also, far more importantly, to look ahead.
Projects. I hate that word. What I do has nothing to do with any ‘project’. I have ideas, and some of them expand into stories. Some even become novels.
I wrote a number of books last year. Some were the reworkings of old ideas and sketches, but others were totally new. I felt, in my heart, that I had to explore new avenues of my imagination. I began to play around with scenarios, the germ of an idea developing into something much more substantial. By the end of 2011, I had published ‘The Sandman Cometh’. This is what is termed a ‘cross-over’ book, suitable for both Young Adults as well as adults. I enjoyed writing it. When I was young, the Sandman would come into my dreams – or nightmares, putting it more accurately – and hurtle me into a terrifying world. So, I wrote it down and the novel was born. Nevertheless, I wanted to push myself still further.
Always being fond of history – and teaching it for my job – I penned VARANGIAN, the story of Harald Hardrada, king of Norway and the last great Viking. A remarkable man, he met his doom on the field of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire in 1066, just a few days before the crucial Battle of Hastings. His earlier life, however, had been the stuff of legend, even when he still lived. Leader of the Varangian Guard for the Byzantine Emperors, his story was crying out to be written.
I planned a trilogy. The first book would tell of Hardrada’s escape from Constantinople, where enemies had imprisoned him, and his journey to Norway. The second would detail how he became King, expanded his empire, and met with Harold Godwinson’s brother to plan an invasion of England. The third, inevitably, brings the three main characters together – Hardrada, Godwinson and William Duke of Normandy – and the life or death struggle they all became embroiled in. I suppose, contradicting myself as I often do, this is indeed my great project for the next year or two.
Having completed Varangian (the first part) I then did something with it I had never done before. I got it professionally edited. I knew it was a great story, that it had plenty in it to suit everyone. The plot was complex, with many sub-plots, and the characters were strong and well rounded. Hardrada himself, although central to the story, was not the main character. This was a young captain of the imperial guard who finds himself thrown into this hot-pot of vice, corruption and murder – the echoes of Imperial Rome sounding loud in the corridors of Constantinople. Through him I was able to develop all sorts of diverse themes and plots, and include a romantic thread that will run through the whole series. I won’t give too much away, but the story is well documented. As it is historical, the basic plot is already done, only the characterisation and the dialogue requires work. It’s great fun, but of course it will all end in tragedy!
Well, after the editing (and I had parted with the money) it was time once again to pack it up and set it out into the world of agents. I kept an open mind, as I always try to do, but there is no escaping the fact that with each rejection, my self-belief began to suffer. I am of the opinion that the majority of agents do not even look at an author’s work, unless they have been personally introduced, or the writer is a celebrity. It’s quite obvious, no matter what they say, that almost 99.9 percent of everything they receive they simply ignore. Yes, I’ve had some great comments from one or two agents, but the majority couldn’t care less. I sometimes wonder how they make their money.
Anyway, the point is, with my heart in my boots, I sent it to a couple of independent publishers.
Within two weeks, those two publishers wanted my book.
Can you imagine! My God.
I settled on one, who seems totally professional and has a good catalogue of noteworthy books, and the contracts have been signed and I am to start work on it, with their chief editor, in the spring of 2013.
It’s an exciting time. I’m about a quarter of the way through the second volume, and have even drafted the first chapter of the third. So, it is all up and running. Except, I have other things in the pipeline too.
Thrillers, filled with murder, deceit, blackmail, sex and violence. That’s what I want to write about. Not just historical ones, but gritty modern sagas. So, that’s what I’m doing – or, should I say, that is what I have done. 2013 is certainly going to prove one of the busiest and productive years I have had so far. I only hope it is the most successful too.
If you’d like to learn more about my ‘adult’ thrillers, please visit my website: www.stuartgyates.com where you can find all the information about what I have written so far.
Thanks for reading, and a very Happy New Year to you all.