I’ve just self-published a novel to eBook called ‘Preternatural’. Nothing uncommon or unusual there, because it’s neither my first published book, nor my first self-published effort, except that it comes with a long story of more than eight years and a few ups and downs.
Back in 2005/2006 I was hard at work on a novel about a British vigilante who sets off to America in search of his wayward brother who has fallen into the sights of a serial killer. It was called ‘Jubal’s Hollow’ and featured a character called Evan Hive and his sidekick, Rink. Some of you familiar with my work will recognise certain elements of that description, and you’d be right in assuming that a few years later it would be published under the title of ‘Dead Men’s Dust’ and the first Joe Hunter thriller to hit the stands. But here’s the thing: between writing the original novel and publication a few speed bumps were thrown in my way. First, when it was written I didn’t have an agent or publisher. I was still a copper working the beat, and was writing in my spare time. Just as I finished writing the original and was about to send it out, my family suffered a terrible tragedy when we lost our seventeen-year-old daughter. As you might imagine, sending off to agents and publishers was the last thing on my mind for some time, and I admit to falling into a funk of grief for a long time. As part of the recovery process I actually put away my writing aspirations and picked up my paints and brushes and spent too much time at the canvas as opposed to the keyboard. But I guess I was always a writer and after about a year I began playing around with ideas again. Maybe it was because of my loss, but my mind was in a different place. It was dark, but it was also miraculous and filled with some kind of hope. Because of this I penned a novel about a father coming to grips with the loss of his own young family, but in a strange and unusual way.
I wrote what would later become ‘Preternatural’ back in the latter half of 2007 under the working title ‘The Thin Grey Man’, and just as I was putting the finishing touches to the book had regained my impetus and aspiration to write. Largely I’d lost my spark as a police man, I see that now, and my heart and mind were in a different place, and I again came to the conclusion that life was too short and I should be following my dream. Now here’s the thing: before she died, my daughter was the only person who had read ‘Jubal’s Hollow’ (Dead Men’s Dust) and she had enthused about it and urged me to send it off to publishers. As a legacy to her memory I thought why not. I was fortunate – who knows there might even have been some guiding hand behind it all – in that the book was picked up for representation by Luigi Bonomi Associates, and quickly went to auction between five of the big publishing houses. Out of it I got a five-book contract from Hodder and Stoughton (which has since become nine to date) to write an ongoing series featuring Joe Hunter. Absolutely amazing news, and it allowed me to retire from the police force and concentrate on my writing career full time. But I’m not going to lie. It was hard work, and time consuming. I lived and breathed Joe Hunter every day without fail (and still do to some extent) and had to put aside all other projects while I worked to hit deadlines. The first Hunter book was published in 2009, and the publishing schedule remained relentless until the beginning of 2013 when Hodder decided to go to one book a year as opposed to the two I had been delivering. As a result, my other novel languished on my hard drive all that time, and to be honest I rarely looked back at it. I did offer it to my agent a couple of times, but he wasn’t interested. I was the ‘Joe Hunter’ man, and publishers might not want to cause any ‘reader confusion’ if I published a book in a different genre.
So the book just sat there doing nothing.
After I became a published author and my news spread, I was approached by many hopeful and aspiring authors who thought I had the magic formula for getting published. I didn’t of course. I was a beginner at the publishing game, but to them I must have had the golden touch and was swamped with requests for information, a nudge in the right direction, or introductions to agents/publishers. I wanted to help, but with the best will in the world I was already snowed under with my responsibilities and deadlines. But to assist them, I decided to run a website where aspiring authors could share their work with their peers and gain valuable feedback. From this idea I launched ‘Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers’ and the stories came flooding in. TKnC grew and grew and became well respected, award winning, and a go to site for top fiction. The story of TKnC is an article in itself, so I’ll only jump forward to what’s important to this story. Back in 2011, it was approaching Halloween, and the editors at the time decided to share some of their writing as a special block posting and we all agreed to write a short tale specifically for the site. I was scratching my head and thought, ooh, what if I use the characters from that old book I’ve got on my hard drive. From that idea I penned a short tale featuring Carter Bailey (and his murderous brother Cash) called ‘Suffering Succubi’ and posted it as my editor’s special. It was met by rave reviews and comments, and readers were begging me to write a book based on these characters. I of course tried not to sound smug when saying; “Actually there is a book already”. It prompted me to go back and take a harder look at the novel that had sat for the past four or five years doing nothing. When I read it I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. But it needed work. It needed a good edit and being a few years old required updating – it’s surprising how quickly pop culture references and technology goes out of date. So…while writing the next Joe Hunter books, I dipped in and out of the Carter Bailey novel, and brought it up to a decent standard. I gave it to a reviewer and part time editor friend to read, and she gave me some valuable insights into the story (thanks Kirstie), and after making these changes, I again set aside the book, hoping to send it off to publishers in 2013. Alas, I’m still the ‘Joe Hunter’ man, so there was no enthusiasm shown by any of the publishers for something in a different genre, and the book was again consigned to the hard drive. But here’s the thing: over the last few years I’d also been toying with the idea of self-publishing and had already put out a couple of my unpublished horror novels (“Dominion” and “Darkest Hour”) and had collected, edited and published two action collections (Action: Pulse Pounding tales Vols 1 and 2) and thought that I could probably do the same again with this novel.
While working on my other books, I kept the novel as a side project and readied it for publication between writing the other stuff. The book was finally published as an ebook on the Kindle platform on 3rd March 2014, under the title PRETERNATURAL.
Why “preternatural’? Well, I wanted a short, snappy title that weighed up the book. “The preternatural (or praeternatural) is that which appears outside or beside (Latin præter) the natural. In contrast to the supernatural, preternatural phenomena are presumed to have natural explanations that are unknown.” – from the 21st century Grimoire ‘Wikipedia’.
Here’s the blurb:
One man, two minds. One is a killer, but is the other insane?
On the remote Connor’s Island in the North Atlantic, archeologists unearthing an ancient Viking settlement have loosed a curse upon the land. People are dying, and everyone is in fear of the Haugbonde and his monstrous servant, the Skeklar.
To catch a monster you must think like a monster. Carter Bailey is the unfortunate vessel of two spirits: his own and that of his dead brother ‘Cash’, a serial killer who murdered Carter’s wife and unborn child. Most people think Carter delusional, and he suspects they are most likely correct. Only one man, horror writer Paul Broom, believes that Carter is blessed with abilities bordering on the supernatural.
Is the curse true, is a creature out of legend killing the people of Conn, or is the murderer firmly entrenched in the real world? Which begs another question: is Carter Bailey as crazy as he thinks, or is he a man with astonishing powers and the ability to sniff out evil? Mad or blessed with powers, it doesn’t matter, it’s down to Carter – both hindered and helped by Cash – to end the Skeklar’s hellish reign of terror.
Hope you enjoy it and there’s no ‘reader confusion”.
And if you’d like to read the short story ‘Suffering Succubi” it is still archived at TKnC right here: http://thrillskillsnchills.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/tknc-editors-halloween-special-matt.html