DRY SEASON Longlisted

DRY SEASON has been longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Which is nice.

I’m really very excited about the nominations the book has received since it was published – shortlisted for the Brit Writer’s Published Writer of the Year, short listed for the Author’s Club Best First Novel and now long listed for IMPAC – and althought I haven’t won any of them (yet) it’s great to know that the book has been well received. The long list for this particular literary award is, well, looooong.  147 books is quite a list and the odds aren’t great for a win but, y’know, being listed is fantastic.


In other news, I’m going to be running a workshop in Sunderland on Thursday 17th November. I’ll be looking at some of the many things which go into getting those all-important first pages of your novel into shape. I’ll do a bit of talking, you’ll do a bit of writing. If you fancy coming along, you’ll find more details right here.


That’s all.

Dan In The Lion’s Den

They're all just pussy cats, really

I visited my first book group yesterday. I’ve done library events, the kind of thing where I stand up and talk about my books, read a passage or two, take a few questions, but that’s different. Those events can often feel more like a sales pitch – a new author trying to create some interest in his books – but a book group is different. Going to a book group is a bit more like stepping into the lion’s den. You see, the assumption with a book group is that everyone has read your book and wants to discuss it, and that’s a worrying prospect becasue maybe, just maybe, they didn’t like it.

‘Impossible!’ I hear you cry. ‘How could they not love DRY SEASON?’

Well, yeah, I know, it’s hard to believe isn’t it? But really, I’m not so naive to think that it’s for everyone. People’s tastes differ so widely. And on those occasions when I’ve turned to the all conquering behemoth that is Amazon to read reviews, I can only wonder at bad reviews for books I love like ‘The Road’,  ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ or ‘Lord of The Flies’, but people are different, they like different things. The world would be a pretty dull place if we were all the same.

So, I took a deep breath, toughened myself and . . . well, it was actually really good fun. I enjoyed talking to a group of people who had read my book, and it was a thrill to see so many well-read copies. I was also very pleased that most of the group seemed to have liked Dry Season. There were one or two constructive criticisms, but that’s fine  – you can’t please everyone, we already know that, right? – and it was interesting to hear different opinions about the same characters and aspects of the plot.

Phew. Survived.

So, thanks to Darlington book group for inviting me along to their meeting, and thanks to all the members for buying my book, taking the time to read it, and for throwing some questions at me that really made me think about my writing.

Next week – bear bating.




Wow, I can’t believe my last post was nearly two weeks ago. How very neglectful of me. Actually, I’ve been working pretty hard on finishing a book, and it can be difficult to hold the whole story together in my mind, so I’ve been lost in what my wife calls ‘Dan World’. This means I don’t remember much of anything she tells me and I spend a lot of time hidden, typing away on the computer – made all the nicer by my new keyboard and mouse.

Anyway, I drafted a children’s book set in 1941 and showed it to my agent who told me the book needs to be ‘bigger’, so that’s what I’m doing – I’m growing it. While this innevitably means the book is longer, that’s not the real intention. You see,when my agent says ‘bigger’ she means richer, deeper, more significant. It’s not just about length, you know. And so my story is growing, but the problem with stories is that they’re organic. Sounds strange, but they grow – at least that’s the way I always see it – and if you change something, even just a very small detail, it makes a tiny wound that can have a large impact elsewhere. And every time that happens, those wounds need to be repaired, cultured and regrown. (Trust me, this analogy makes sense to me even if it doesn’t to you.) And these changes can be hard to track and keep a handle on.

The other thing that can make things tougher is the setting. DRY SEASON happens in a place and time I know well. DARK HORIZONS, too. This story, though . . . well, I wasn’t around in 1941, and it’s really surprising how different life was. It’s not that long ago, but we’ve come very far in those few years since.

Well, the good news is that I’m now coming to a stage where I can re-read what I’ve put together. This means I can emerge, blinking like a pit pony, from my garret and rejoin the real world as best as I can. Until, that is, I receive the line edits for my next novel THE CHILD THIEF.

This is the point where I tell you how excited I am about The Child Thief – and I really am excited. My editor at Orion absolutely loves the book, tells me there’s very little to do in terms of editing, and I can’t wait to see what the art people are going to come up with for covers. DRY SEASON and DARK HORIZONS are very diffferent books, and THE CHILD THIEF is going to be different again.  It’s due out in spring 2012, and I only wish it was sooner. It’s gonna be . . . well, it’s gonna be great, isn’t it?

You’re gonna love it.

Not Nearly Famous

I was at Morpeth library last night to talk about my books, and you wouldn’t believe the queues to get in. I mean, they were lining up around the corner, pitching tents, lighting barbecues . . . no, wait, that’s not right.

Actually, the turn out was small, just a handful, but I’m pretty used to that. Publishers use whatever marketing budgets they have to promote certain books/authors, and the rest of us are left to forge our way through the gloom, trying to promote ourselves. I’m lucky and grateful to have the support of New Writing North and Read Regional behind me, but there are many other authors who don’t even have that.

So the reality is that no one knows who I am, and without any kind of national or international promotion, it’s just a case of doing whatever I can to make people aware that my books exist – and then trying to persuade them to pick them up.

I know I’m not alone in this.

Anyway, the library staff at Morpeth were very welcoming – there was even complimentary wine and food which was great – and the handful of people who came along were interested, interesting, and good company. Now there are a few more people out there who have heard of me and who have copies of my books, and if they tell other people . . .  well, yesterday Morpeth, tomorrow THE WORLD  (*cue evil laughter* Mwa ha ha ha ha).

But you know what? The intimate events are fun and I’d rather have a small group of people who are keen than a large group of people who look like they’d rather be somewhere else.