I’m delighted to be able to share with you a guest post by Chris Thomas, the author of The Edge of Sanity as part of the blog blitz. You can find out more about his path to publication in the post below, but first here’s what the book is about.
In a derelict squat, the Smart Man watches as the new narcotic developed by his shadowy organisation wreaks havoc on it, unsuspecting victims. The drug is now ready for sale on their exclusive darknet marketplace.
Elsewhere, DCI Robert Smith, the retired head of the Cyber Crimes Unit, seeks out crime boss Curtis Slater at his remote farm. He offers to provide Slater with information in exchange for money. But what information is he offering?
Meanwhile, former detective Pete Harris had started a new life, away from the Cyber Crimes Unit, with his daughter and begins to rekindle his relationship with old colleague Grace Brooks.
With his life seemingly complete, Pete’s world comes crashing down as he is drawn into Slater’s game with fatal consequences. He must join forces with his old enemies in a race against time. But can Pete save his daughter and Grace from the clutches of Slater, the Smart Man, and the sinister ringmaster, the Professor?
To start with the inevitable cliché, everyone has a book in them.
Certainly, for the years that I had banged on at my wife about writing a book, I certainly believed this to be true. The problem was, I didn’t really like reading. Or rather, I did like reading, I just found it difficult to find the time to put to reading. When I did manage to sit down with a book, I would get three or four pages in and fall asleep, regardless of how exciting the story was. Reading just had that effect on me.
A few Google searches on ‘how many words is a novel’ or similar, made the task of sitting down and writing 80,000 words, especially when I could barely read 1,000 and maintain consciousness, even more daunting.
Eventually, my wife found me an evening course entitled ‘Kickstart your Creativity’. Whilst I would say that the course did very little to ‘kickstart’ any sort of creativity per se, what it did show me was two things.
Firstly, that I was able to put down words very quickly. The 1,000 word homework we were set each week would take little more than half an hour to write.
And secondly, that those 1,000 words usually turned into something that people actually enjoyed listening to in the lesson. One week’s homework even turned into a 7,000 word behemoth that people asked me finish and email to them so they could read the end.
So, in that respect, the course fulfilled its purpose. I still knew nothing of writing techniques, story structure, plot and character development but all of a sudden knew that the task of writing a novel was no longer the Herculean task it first appeared.
Then it appeared on television. The Richard & Judy Book Club Search for a New Bestseller competition. Unpublished authors could submit a three-chapter sample and synopsis, the field would be whittled down to ten who would then have six months to produce the finished novel before a single winner emerges victorious with a shiny publishing deal.
This was my competition. I was there, confident I could nail this at my very first attempt. I was just missing one vital ingredient. Any sort of story whatsoever.
I had always known that I wanted to write some sort of vigilante justice-based story. I watched news stories that, like most decent people who saw the same, made my blood boil. Murders, rapists, paedophiles escaping full and proper punishment. Rich celebrities avoiding buying their way out of trouble.
I happened to be watching a bunch of YouTube videos about this relatively unknown entity called “The Dark Web”. The more I watched, the more intriguing it became. There were some seriously messed up things down there, things which most people probably couldn’t even comprehend as even being possible to exist. It occurred to me that anything you could think of, no matter how disgusting, disturbing, vile or sinister, the chances are that someone had already done it and put it up on the Dark Web.
But it took a while for the penny to drop. I could have watched a YouTube video entitled “Why don’t you set your book on the Dark Web” in massive flashing letters and it still not click. Thankfully, it did.
Rather than follow the premise of most of the more questionable Dark Web content, i.e. nasty people doing nasty things to innocent, unwilling victims for the delectation of other nasty people I decided to change it around. Good, albeit of dubious morals, people doing nasty things to nasty, guilty unwilling victims for the delectation of other “good” people. Make it a shiny “Strictly Come Dancing” prime-time-style gameshow, throw in this crazy new currency called Bitcoin and hey-presto, The Red Room was born.
It got nowhere with the Richard & Judy competition obviously, but by now I was 30,000 words in and decided to finish it.
And finish it I did. I then went down the traditional route of submitting to literary agents. Most agency websites make it clear that you shouldn’t expect to receive an answer before about six weeks, if indeed you ever receive one at all. I sat at work one Friday afternoon, with all my submission emails open, each one with a different submission requirement depending on where it was going, before taking a deep breath and hitting send on the lot. A couple of hours later, when I got home, I could not believe my eyes when I already had a response from one of the larger agencies in which the lady basically said, “Thank you for sending. I love the concept of the Red Room and will read it as quickly as I can and be back to you shortly”.
Oh. My. God. That was it. The whole weekend, my mind raced. Book deal, massive advance, movie screenplay, Oscar winning adaption. In my head, I had basically just submitted the new Silence of the Lambs. Might even get Anthony Hopkins to play Alastair Goodfellow. Actually, maybe Hugh Jackman or Robert Downey Jr would be better.
Until the following Friday, when I got the standard-worded rejection email back.
That then prompted a rethink and I began investigating the myriad self-publishing platforms that were available. As one who tends to shy away from social media, the idea of having to self-publicise my work, which I wasn’t sure was even that good, seemed scary as hell. But, it seemed the best way to put my work ‘out there’.
After engaging a self-publishing company to design the cover, edit, proofread and typeset, The Red Room was finally released on 28th February 2017. I had support from friends and family who I had essentially pestered endlessly into buying a copy and the book even reached the heady heights of 7th in the Amazon subcategory of (for some reason) Books > Humour > Criminals & Lawyers.
Being print-on-demand, I was even able to print myself a hard-back copy of my book. Nothing more than a huge vanity trip, but it is a perfect memento of my foray into the world of self-publishing.
But, being a complete noob in the world of books, online book groups, book bloggers and so on, I was absolutely staggered at just how massive this world is. Blog tours. I mean, what the f**k is a blog tour? Once I realised how this strange new world worked, I realised that by trying to do it on my own I would simply drown without a trace.
I carried on submitting it, this time to smaller independent publishers before I finally received the amazing news that the utterly brilliant Bloodhound Books wanted to sign it.
A book deal. Someone who actually knows that the hell they are doing. A new cover, proper editing, publicity. Even one of those blog tour things. It was nothing if not ultra, mega-exciting.
‘The Red Room’ was changed to ‘Enter the Dark’ in order to avoid 50 Shades of Grey confusion and the rest, as they say, is history.
Apart from the second cover change to coincide with the next extra special event- signing the follow up ‘The Edge of Sanity’.
The writing and signing of The Edge of Sanity was a completely different beast. Enter the Dark took me approximately four months from start to finish (in and around my actual real-life job). No pressure, no expectations. It seemed to flow well and almost write itself. The Edge of Sanity was a slog.
Bizarrely, the concept came relatively easily. The news at the time was inundated with stories of designer drugs, ‘Zombie Spice’, ‘Krokodil’, comatose drug users stumbling around city centres. That would become the basis of The Edge of Sanity.
Despite this, it took me nearly nine months to finish. At one point, I went six weeks without adding any words whatsoever. Work was hard and stressful. By the time I did eventually finish, it felt as though I had crawled through a field of barbed wire.
But get there I did, and I was hugely grateful when Bloodhound agreed to sign and publish it. Someone else was going to edit it, someone else would design the cover, proofread it, publicise it. From an author point-of-view it was a far more enjoyable journey at the business end of the publishing route and will be very exciting to see the response once it is released.
The journey from talking the talk to actually walking the walk has been fairly epic and all the more satisfying knowing that many people only manage the first half. I’m still waiting for the lightbulb / sledgehammer-to-the-face moment that provides me with the concept to finish the trilogy, but would consider it an ‘unfinished work’ until I do. A stand-alone book may be the next project, something unrelated.
But whatever happens, I am hugely grateful to all the wonderful people at Bloodhound Books for making it happen. And even more grateful to all the people who have stumped up their hard-earned money to buy the book or taken the time to read it and review it. It all helps to make us better writers.
Thank you to Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Chris for taking the time to write this fascinating post. If you would like to purchase a copy of The Edge of Sanity you can do so by clicking on the link below.
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR