A fresh approach to crime fiction

Back story

I don’t normally look back, unless I’m reversing into a parking space, or checking to see if Harvey’s still sniffing in the bushes.

(If you’re new to this blog, you need to know that Harvey’s a West Highland white terrier, not a man who noses around bushes.)

A year has passed since I left my day job on 31st March 2016 to write full time. For 39 years, I’d worked as an environmental health officer and as a manager in the final 12 years. But I’d had enough. Government spending cuts and poor management had taken their toll, but every day I seemed to spend far too much time justifying the work I and my team did.

Environmental health officers help people. We improve public health. We maintain standards and take action against those who think the law doesn’t apply to them. But we don’t have magic wands. We can’t solve problems without evidence. And we can’t take action just because someone dislikes a neighbour.

While I no longer felt valued, I wanted to make sure Kent Fisher embodied my values.

I gave him my keen sense of fairness and justice, my desire to help others, especially those who are less fortunate. With my determination, tenacity and irreverent sense of humour, he solved murders while doing the day job.

Into the unknown

The publication of No Accident, my first novel, was not as smooth or exciting as it could have been. But I enjoyed holding the paperback in my hand for the first time, and it’s lovely when people tell me how much they enjoyed No Accident. That’s when you feel appreciated as an author.

I also had validation as an author. Like most writers, I’d collected rejection slips and letters from agents and publishers over the years until finally I found my voice and produced a novel a publisher wanted.

Then it got complicated

Authors write. That’s what they do. Only it’s not enough, unless you can afford your own PR agency to promote the book. As one out of several million books on Amazon, you could easily miss my novel.

That’s the challenge.

For six months I spent too much time building my knowledge of marketing and promotion, reading articles and books, watch training videos and checking the websites of established authors. I joined all manner of groups on Facebook, flew with Twitter, and pushed out my Robservations blog with no real idea of what I was trying to achieve.

By Christmas last year, I was exhausted, overwhelmed with information, and completely lost. Book sales had tailed off and my efforts to attract readers to my website had barely made a ripple.

I didn’t know what to do for the best, but I knew I couldn’t give up.  Otherwise what was the point in having all this determination and tenacity?

A few days later, Radio Sussex, with thousands of listeners, invited me to talk about environmental health and how it led to me becoming a published writer. Linda’s Book Bag invited me to write a guest post. TripFiction asked me for an article on the South Downs, the setting for my novels.

In February, with only a few paragraphs of an opening scene and a vague idea of the plot, I began writing the first draft of my third Kent Fisher novel, No Remorse. If you’ve read any of my recent blogs, you’ll know how much I’m enjoying the writing.

So, after a shaky start and a year of change and learning, I feel like I’m writing better than ever.

That’s not a bad way to end my first year as an author, is it?

What do you think?

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