my books

29May

A Decade of Writing

I was rustling around for some old paperwork the other day when I came across a printed email dated from June 2004. It was from my agent, John Jarrold, saying that he’d read and loved my submission, and he’d like to represent me. My first thought was to smile at remembering my excitement at having an agent. I remember reading this on my terrible desktop computer in a rented room that was little short of a garret, and doing a stupid dance.

Then the other thing hit me: June 2004.

Next month, it’ll mark a whole decade of having an agent, though I’d been writing for a little while before that date. That means writing has taken up over a decade of my life – an hour a day, almost every day. I had a couple of failed novels before I finally signed a publication deal sometime in 2007, when I was 26; and that book, Nights of Villjamur, wasn’t published until 2009. I’ve been lucky enough to have a wonderful editor and great publishing team that has allowed me to keep writing ever since then.

Have things changed much in that decade? Well, writing is less special for me than at the start. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or hate it any more or less, but that there’s a certain good feeling about the prize being simply to get published. But then what? What’s the ambition after that? To get good reviews? To win things? To sell lots? To get a movie deal? It doesn’t matter which of those a writer really achieves, they’ll probably always want something else next and be miserable with their lot. Anyway, for the most part, those aims are out of your control. All you can do is roll up to the next book, with the next deadline in sight, and try something else. Improve on your failures. And try again.

Over the ten years, I’ve learned not to compete with other writers, even though it feels that you are at first. Another author’s success does not eat into your own, but rather good books keep people reading, and create a vibrant community and marketplace (the latter is important because it props up the community).

I’ve also learned to ignore any doomsayers. Publishing has been dead or dying since I was sending my first book out on submission, and things seem to be doing just fine. The Internet hasn’t killed books, but supported their sales. Ebooks are just another format, and are helping publishers make money and bringing back out-of-print books. The most sobering point of all, though, is that the thing that probably matters most about an author’s career? Having a good book cover.

I’ve learned that getting a bad review makes no difference to anything – in fact, if there’s a picture of your cover and a bit of a blurb, it’s all to the good. The best thing is to get a mixture of love and hate, because then the book is talked about more. (I get that it’s difficult to cope with this, because writers are, by nature, reflective souls in order to get the best out of their art, which exposes them to the slings and arrows of online reviewing.) I’ve learned I’m of the PD James school of writing, in that I’ll never give up the day job. Writing is more liberating when it is my hobby, without financial stress, as the thing I do to unpack ideas or unwind. Plus, when I’m interacting with other people at work, I’m brushing up against little stories that I can store away. That wouldn’t happen if I sat on my own in a room sighing all day.

What about SFF fandom? I can only really speak of online fandom, which has been very kind to me early on in my career. The digital community is larger by a long way, but it has settled into a wide array niches, meaning it is difficult for any one person, or one author, to make an impact. Generally I’ve noticed that these communities have many recycled debates about good book covers and awards debacles etc, which is to be expected with newer people coming into and poking an established fandom. Also the vitriolic arguments people have online are nothing unique to the genre. By that I mean the genre is not self-imploding under angry froth, it’s just what people do on the Internet. Twitter has only served to speed up each incident. However, I have noticed a wonderfully progressive trend over the past five years especially. I’ve never known any genre to be so utterly aware of race and gender equality in fiction, and of consciously trying to improve things. That’s a pretty good place to be.

So what next? Well, I’m still writing. Maybe for another decade, who knows? At the moment, I’m working on the draft of another Drakenfeld novel, but there are more ideas in my head (in all honestly, I’ll probably keep doing this for as long as someone lets me do it). I’ve the paperback of Drakenfeld out in July, and – I think! – a Drakenfeld short story being published in August. Then Retribution, the second Drakenfeld novel, in October. That’s a healthy place to be.

Am I happy with writing, though? Never ask a writer that.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog series about my road to publication. If you’re interested, here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. A little of the content is cringeworthy, but new writers just love giving advice – as I proved!

11Feb

Drakenfeld Reviews

A few more reviews of Drakenfeld have been floating around the blogosphere. First up, the Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell really enjoyed it after not liking one of my previous books:

I must begin by saying that I did try to read another fantasy series by him and did not like that one at all. But I still gave this one a go and I am glad I did. It was different and really good.

It’s always nice to be given another chance. Secondly UK blogger Wertzone mostly enjoyed it:

… a compelling murder mystery novel with some great atmosphere and writing

Though he wasn’t a fan of the up-scaled ending. Also, somehow he concludes the continent of Vispasia is a little bigger than Italy, which is strange – for anyone who’s interested, I’d say it’s as broad as the whole of Europe. Right at the start, Drakenfeld takes a ship to travel many days from one part to another.

Finally, Sporadic Reads really enjoyed the book as well:

Aside from the world building, I also enjoyed the characters. Lucan Drakenfeld has an analytic mind , emphatic heart and a wicked sense of humor. He is one of the few in his profession who abhors violence and regrets using it even if its necessary. He isn’t perfect though as he has his flaws, he isn’t the best of fighters, though he is capable enough, hates travelling by sea and has a health condition he hides from others.

I’m also knee-deep in edits, hence the minimal blog activity of the past few days…

6Feb

Another Update

The second Lucan Drakenfeld novel now has a name: Retribution. Or strictly speaking, Retribution: A Lucan Drakenfeld novel. Again, it’s to be published in October this year with the paperback of Drakenfeld in July.

1Feb

Updates

An update on the Drakenfeld series, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’m currently working through the edits for the second novel, and it’s going pretty well. The second book is another self-contained story set within a different nation of the Royal Vispasian Union (the continent in which the action happens). There’s a rolling history, much like in real life. I’m hoping to create a few of these novels that can be enjoyed in isolation, but which that have detailed rewards for those who follow the marco story. The aesthetics, the type of crime, and the mood are all different. It’s a lot darker, though Drakenfeld will always remain the optimistic beacon of civilisation – of the system – throughout it all.

The book is scheduled for an October release this year, with the paperback of Drakenfeld coming in July. Hopefully I’ll have more news on a Drakenfeld short story, too…

13Nov

Reviews at io9 & the Book Smugglers

Drakenfeld has been getting about a bit recently. A few meaty reviews have come in, which is great to see. The first is by Andrew Liptak over at the mighty io9.com:

Drakenfeld is a contagiously optimistic novel, from its politics to its characters. Newton’s ancient-styled world also belies the real nature of his novel: this is a cutting-edge political thriller that for the most part, wouldn’t be out of place in a major city like London or New York or modern day Rome.

The second is from Ana over at the Book Smugglers:

But the thing is: [Drakenfeld's] choices? Are choices that also come from privilege – they are choices that he can do because he has never really suffered it directly. So, it is easy for him to make them. One great moment in the book is how he questions Leana for how she easily she seems to fight and kill: she directly calls him on that because she didn’t have that choice when her entire village and everyone she ever knew were destroyed in a violent attack.

The third is by Patrick Doherty over at Fantasy Literature:

Not every story has to have its own completely unique and original world. Sometimes taking inspiration from a past era works out better than creating a new world, and Mark Charan Newton proves that he can do both

Which is a pretty good week’s work as far as I’m concerned.

21Oct

Italian Rights Deal

Hot off the press:

Jon Mitchell, Senior Rights Manager at Macmillan, has sold Italian rights to DRAKENFELD, the opening novel in a new fantasy crime/thriller series by Mark Charan Newton, to Fanucci.

World rights in the first two titles in this series were acquired by Julie Crisp at Tor UK from agent John Jarrold. DRAKENFELD has just been published in the UK, and the sequel has been delivered.

SFX said of DRAKENFELD:

“This is a grounded and realistic example of secondary world-building that works well as an intelligent locked-room mystery and also gives us a cerebral, multi-layered protagonist. Game of Thrones fans will find plenty to enjoy in the story’s sharply-played political skulduggery…”

Tor.com’s review said:

“The several evenings I spent reading it were so perfectly pleasant that I struggle to recall the last fantasy novel I felt such unabashed fondness for.”

Contact Jon Mitchell or John Jarrold for further information:

Jon Mitchell – e-mail: j.mitchell@macmillan.co.uk phone 020 7014 6151
John Jarrold – e-mail: j.jarrold@btinternet.com phone: 01522 510544.

21st October 2013

18Oct

More Drakenfeld Reviews

A couple of Drakenfeld reviews have rolled in, both of them rather lovely. The first is over at the mighty Tor.com, probably the largest and thorough (and occasionally cutting) genre review site going these days:

The several evenings I spent reading it were so perfectly pleasant that I struggle to recall the last fantasy novel I felt such unabashed fondness for.

That pretty detailed review actually really captures most of what I was going for with the novel – and certainly the spirit of what I was after – so I’m delighted with it.

The second lovely review is over at the BiblioSanctum:

With its perfect blend of fantasy and mystery and an excellent cast of characters, Drakenfeld gave me one of the more unique reading experiences I’ve had this year, and I think those who enjoy both those genres will really like this one. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, definitely check this one out. (5/5)

15Oct

SFX on Drakenfeld

… this is a grounded and realistic example of secondary world-building that works well as an intelligent locked-room mystery and also gives us a cerebral, multi-layered protagonist… a world that’s challenging and provocative without falling into grimdark cliches.

4 stars in SFX. I’ll take that from the UK’s biggest genre magazine.