Over the next few weeks, I will be going through each of my books in order of release, and talking about how they came to be.
The Undead Day One
In early 2012 I read a book called Three Feet of Sky by Stephen Ayres. It’s a fantastic story, (seriously, go read it) and at the end I looked the author up and discovered it was self-published.
This was a term I had never heard of before. I honestly didn’t know self-publishing was even a thing and just the concept of it blew my mind.
I was getting so fed up of reading books from the big publishers that told the same stories in the same voices with the same characters (I’ll cover this later and how this awful system has come to be within the world of publishing).
Sure, some gloriously fantastic books were out there, but more and more I was finding them all so samey and that was making it dull and not feeding the thing inside that wanted more.
After Three Feet of Sky, I then ploughed into and read every self-published book I could find. I ate them up like a hungry little word-goblin. A few stood out. Darren Humphries was, and still is, bloody good, but therein lies part of the motivation because some (many) were so diabolically shit that I figured I could do better.
Huzzah! Have at it.
In truth, the seed had already been planted the second I realised Three Feet of Sky was self-pubbed, everything after that was just watering that seed and letting it grow roots. At that point, I had been a police officer for about 13 or 14 years. My career was going well but there was an itch and it needed scratching.
So, in May 2012, I sat down at my dining room table with an old laptop and got to thinking about it, and the single most brilliant piece of advice I saw then, and that still rings so true now, is to write the book you want to read.
I adored post-apocalyptic literature. The End Of The World in all guises and ways. I couldn’t get enough of it, but a few things had always stood out for me.
One was the lack of detail. Most books covered the terrible incident, whatever it may be, and then picked the story up down the line, five or ten years later.
I wanted to see the what happened on the second day, on the third, I craved that detail to satisfy my police-officer hunger for precision. Okay, so I would write the first day of something happening. Cool. Like a day one thing. I could even call it Day One.
Then I thought about the character and remembered my irritation of the Super-Hero-Mega-God versus Abject Misery ways of portraying The End Of The World As We Know It.
Characters were either gun-toting, perfectly defined, muscular heroic types that had access to every gun ever made, or they were festering in their own misery and pottering about scavenging for food while their skin peeled away from illness and disease.
I didn’t want either. I wanted a British chap, self-effacing and filled with the same level of self-loathing as the rest of us, but with that spark, that hunger for survival I had seen in so many people during so many years of policing. That fight or flight instinct that made many run away screaming in panic, while a few stood their ground and found hidden depths of courage and fortitude they never knew they had.
Awesome. Let’s do that then. Woohooo!
And so, from all those needs, wants and desires I set about writing The Undead Day One….and it was awful. Like oh my god it was so shit. A five year old with a crayon could have done a better job.
The objective in Day One was to survive and not get chomped and then for Howie to reach his parent’s house. It was both simple and simply written. The sentence structure was incredibly basic. My grammar was (and still is) appalling, my syntax, structure and er, just about everything was bloody shocking.
I was scared of dialogue…
‘Hello, how are you?’
‘I am fine, thank you, how are you?’
‘I am also fine. Thank you for asking.’
‘You are welcome.’
Argh! No no no. People don’t talk like that but I couldn’t make Howie talk how I wanted him to talk, so I mostly kept him away from other people. (The scenes now where he is in the managers meeting were added later during re-writes).
Some mates read it and duly ripped the piss, but they were honest in their feedback that it was okay, nothing great, nothing wonderful.
I fiddled about a few times, checked it over and thought sod it and just uploaded it to Amazon. I didn’t even have a cover.
Of course, it was an instant success and I immediately quit my job and went to live in Brazil on board my luxury yacht.
Nobody bought it. Like nobody. Maybe one or two. This was an early review –
I love zombies novels but was completely let down by this very poor read. There is no natural flow and its very repetitive almost like a childs book.
Which pretty much sums it up. However, having been a hard-nosed roughty toughty rozzer for so long, and having spent my career at the sharp and pointy end of policing dealing with the uber-baddies of the world, I was kinda used to hard-feedback, so it didn’t phase me.
Looking back now, Day One was simply putting words on a page. That was it. Nothing more was expected and nothing more was really delivered.
What did happen, however, was that I fell head over heels in love with writing. I was smitten. The bug was there, and so within a very short space of time, I started writing the next one.
(coming next, The Undead Day Two in review)
If you have read and enjoyed The Undead Day One, please leave a review. The power of reviews is immeasurable in so many ways.