The short answer is bloody ages. I should know. The Life Assistance Agency loitered in my life with the entitlement of sullen teenagers at a bus stop. It was long enough to be transferred from at least two computer hard drives. For many writers, looking too closely at how long it took to complete a book is inadvisable without emergency services on speed dial.
As already blogged about on here, one of the more popular questions people have for writers is ‘are you writing another one?’ which makes you wonder why you started all this nonsense in the first place. Despite your wildest fantasies, there’s no sea of adoring fans at Red Rocks under a blood red sky or name drops from major interviewees clamouring for another book, there’s simply people idly wondering if you’re going to write another, as though it’s on par with eating a few more crisps at a party.
I recently read a fascinating interview with Will Menmuir – a Booker Prize long list nominee – who wrote a diary about his writing The Many. It is an honest account of how a first draft barely makes sense even to the writer and that the daily 500 words goal was lucky to met in a fortnight. In light of the time spent writing a novel it’s almost unseemly how quickly you forget the arduous process . Balancing prose, characters and plot is akin to swinging across a room using nothing but cotton threads. It’s basically sticking with an idea that you keep wondering might be shit with no one yet to tell you otherwise.
I always intended my Life Assistance Agency to be a series of books from the instant that the Commissioning Editor at Random House asked me if it had sequels. I made up the sequel’s title Blind Fury on the spot, which led to the idea of having a retired wrestler Billy ‘Blind’ Fury as a character. See what I mean about having potentially shit idea and sticking with it. Since this working title, I’ve been toying with the idea of the Life Assistance Agency and the Loneliness of a Pop Star. It echoes Tintin books – the life Assistance Agency in Tibet, etc, which basically looks like a thinly disguised excuse to go travelling for ‘research’. I’ve been long obsessed with what successful pop stars do once their moment in the sun inevitably fades and they’re left with the mansion and a swimming pool in the shape of their own ego.
Since the first novel got published I was aware of needing to write a follow up. I had already completed 40,000 words of Blind Fury, but decided I needed to start again from scratch. I’d like a word with the version of myself making that particular decision.
The hardest thing to find in writing is your voice. It eventually arrives, but only after more false starts than the Millennium Falcon. I always wanted to write novels as thin as the cigarettes I was smoking. Some kind of treatise on the human condition that hit home truths like the LA Lakers hit home runs* Instead, I now aim to be writing wry adventure yarns of the old mould involving angels. The most annoying thing about this is that I don’t read novels about angels, although I do think Stigmata is an amazing film. To be honest the angels are coincidental. It’s really about a pair of chancers setting up an agency in the same spirit that pioneers set up record companies, publishing houses and dentists. Put a sign up and pray people will come. Like Douglas Adams wrote Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy in the Sci Fi genre, angels are really simply a vehicle for some jokes and absurd predicaments.
So, this is a declaration. Of sporadic blog posts that captures the blood, sweat and tea stains of writing a novel that is currently called the Loneliness of a Pop Star: a Life Assistance Agency novel. with a word goal of 1000 per week. There I’ve said it. I even wrote a line I loved the other day: ‘Scott might find wisdom from Springsteen, but sometimes it’s found in the echo of disco cowbells from early 80s NYC dance-floors.’
My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – is available here – – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance
and on ebook here –
*I know nothing about baseball so if the LA Lakers are currently discovering poor home form then this analogy may not work. I basically had one of their caps once.