IT’S the moment every writer craves and strives for. It’s the reason we spend years honing submissions and synopses and agonising over calls and emails to prospective agents and publishers. It’s the moment we sometimes think will never come amid the rejections and the setbacks and the maddeningly polite “it’s really good but it’s just not quite what we’re looking for right now” letters.
And then, finally, lightning strikes. Or, in my case- the iPhone chirps to tell me I’ve got a direct message on Twitter. “Hi Neil, we’ve read Falling Fast and want to take this further. Can we talk?”
And that was it. One message from Sara at Saraband and the moment I’d been waiting for my entire working life, the moment I’d dreamed of and worked towards, had arrived.
A book deal. Publication. The chance to be an Actual Author, with his book on a shelf and online and on eBooks and Kindle and IBooks and... well, you get the idea.
I’ve always wanted to be an author, always known that’s where my career would be. That’s why, like a lot of other writers - Tony included, I imagine - I went into journalism. It was a way to make a living with words while waiting for the book deal. And, for an aspiring author, byline buzz (I always liked being a page 3 boy when I was on The Scotsman and the News) is a taste of what you hope is to come. It’s also, as it turns out, a great way to do background research for your books. Yes, Falling Fast is a work of fiction, but it’s a fiction informed by 15 years of long hours in newsrooms, facing down deadlines, angry editors and the wrath of sub editors. The reality is there, but hyped up and embellished by my own imaginings. Have I ever hunted a convicted rapist? No. Ever been beaten up over a story? No. Ever tapped a source that may have had a few less-than-upstanding contacts? No comment.
The book has been praised for its "gritty" tone, "twists and turns" and, my own favourite, its “thrills, spills, chills and kills”. And while the praise is very welcome and, if I’m being honest, a little embarrassing, the truth behind the writing is a little simpler. The visceral violence and breakneck pace you’ll find in Falling Fast are, quite simply, the acts of a fanboy. I wanted - needed - to write a novel that had the same effect on readers that some of the best writers in Scottish crime - Rankin, McBride, Banks and, yes, Black - had on me. I hadn't set out to join Tony among the ranks of Tartan noir writers - I just wanted to tell a great story that people enjoyed and were hooked by- but that’s what I’ve done.
And now, the moment is here. Today (if this goes live on Thursday) Falling Fast hits the shelves, nestled in the Scottish crime fiction section of shops across the country alongside the writers I grew up reading and aspiring to be. I’ve got book launches to prepare for (the thought of reading a section of my own book to an audience is more terrifying that the prospect of facing down Charlie Morris or Derek McGinty) and I’m booked for my first appearance as an author, at Crime Fest in Bristol later this month. I’m on the debut authors panel, trying to give advice to aspiring authors on how to create their own moment.
My advice? Write what you know. Enjoy the work. Tell a great story. And, whatever the genre, remember why you love it in the first place. After all, a little fanboy enthusiasm a can take you a long, long way.
:: Find out more about Falling Fast, or buy a copy, from Neil's publishers.