Friday, 2 March 2012

Back to the grindstone

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Tom Kasey and Jack Steel)

The lull in the workload didn’t last quite as long as I was hoping.
            As well as the various lectures I had to prepare for the forthcoming cruise on the Saga Sapphire, I was sent, almost simultaneously, the editorial notes for my second novel for Simon & Schuster, which I’d written as ‘Jack Steel’, and the copyedited manuscript for the fifth ‘James Becker’ book for Transworld. All of which of course, have to be sent back in time to meet the deadlines set by the publishers.
            And there was another odd little job to do as well. My agent, who I have frequently explained comes up with good ideas on an astonishingly regular basis, managed to sell a cameo appearance in my next Transworld novel for charity, and this meant writing a brand-new chapter featuring the winner of the auction. And it also of course meant making a number of minor changes both before and after the insertion of the new chapter to accommodate the additional character.
            The writing was made somewhat more difficult because the new character had to have a larger part in the book than simply a walk-on role where he merely appeared and then vanished from sight almost immediately. The character had to actually do something within the story, but equally clearly would not be able to play a pivotal role in the book, simply because the roles of the good guys were already established, and the bad guys were really quite, well, bad, and it didn’t seem appropriate to blacken the character of the winner of the auction, because if I did he might well ask for his money back.
            I was lucky in that the winner was a fairly young man who would fit neatly into the story, and I’d already decided that his role would be as a fluent German speaker and expert on the Second World War. The bonus was that he actually had a German surname, so that made his insertion into the manuscript even smoother than it would otherwise have been. My agent and I had exchanged a number of emails trying to decide what we’d do if the winner turned out to be a 90 year old grandmother from Hong Kong, because working her into the story would have been really quite difficult.
            Anyway, I finished that chapter today and it’s gone off to my agent for onward transmission to the winner for him to look it over before I send it, as a part of the completed copy-edited manuscript, to Transworld. So as long as he doesn’t object to the way I’ve described him, that should all be finished by the early part of next week.
            Then I can get on with the changes needed to the Simon & Schuster manuscript, which need to be completed by the end of the month.
            And pretty much as soon as that’s finished, I’ll have to start work on the next book for Transworld, once I know what my editor there is looking for. I’ve sent him a handful of synopses for possible books, so he can either select one of these or – if past performance is anything to go by – I may well end up writing a book the idea for which has come from the publisher, rather than from me as an author.
            The last two books for Transworld were both suggested by my editor there, but she has now moved on to pastures new, and I’ll have to wait to see if my new editor works in the same way.
            It’s going to be an interesting few months.

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