By Peter Stuart Smith
I suppose everyone makes New Year resolutions, and I guess there's a fighting chance of one or two dedicated individuals actually keeping them, at least for a while. Personally, I never bother, working on the assumption that I'll just keep on plodding along, doing this year what I did last year because for me, that seems to work.
But actually this year might turn out to be a little different, because for the first time since I started writing as a profession, back in 2003, at this moment I'm actually out of contract with both my publishers, and in all three names. Of course, three books have yet to be produced, but the process is well underway. I've corrected the page proofs of Right and Glory; I'm about to look at the copy-editor's comments on Manhunt, and I'm just finishing off the manuscript of The Nosferatu Scroll. But the bulk of the work is done, and right now I have no new projects for which I have a contract.
And that's a rather strange feeling. Usually I write seven days a week, but for the first time in eight years there are no deadlines looming, no new work to be done. I'm hoping, of course, that my agent will rectify the situation fairly soon, but it's by no means certain that all three of my altar egos will be leaping into print again in 2012. The thriller market is uncertain, shall we say, with big contracts going to established names like Lee Child (who does actually write his own books), and people like Chris Ryan and Andy McNab (who of course don't). So whether Macmillan see a future for James Barrington and the 'Paul Richter' character is unknown. Sales in this genre have certainly been falling quite steadily, apart from the big names.
'James Becker' probably has a brighter future, with the first two books getting into the New York Times top forty best-seller lists, and the third one (The Messiah Secret) entering at number 27 in December last year. And as for 'Max Adams' and the WW2 series, right now we just don't know. The first book (To Do or Die) was offered in places like Waterstones on various promotions but we don't yet know what the sales have been like. It got decent reviews, though.
We shall see, and obviously you'll read about it here over the next few months. Of course, if the Maya are right, the world is going to end in December 2012 anyway, and if it does I guess that publishing contracts and pretty much everything else aren't going to seem particularly important. but whatever happens in 23 months or so, I'm reasonably certain that as the continents shatter and the oceans rise – or whatever it is that's supposed to happen – you'll still find me sitting in front of my laptop, writing something, even if it's only my Will!