From dying character on page sixty-four to full novel in seven years

This is the first cover that Natasha designed for me, still a favorite of mine.

The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, where Michel first appeared.

Every author has their own way of tackling their stories. I for one have always been driven by the voices of my characters, as they talk to me in my head. No, I’m not crazy. At least I don’t think so. The story of Haakon and his fallen angels has many real-world roots, inspired by a novel by Larry Benjamin, What Binds Us, a pedophile I once knew, my experiences from India, and my love of travel, all contributed to this dark tale. I did not foresee Michel though. When he appeared early on in the story, during Haakon’s first trip abroad to London, on page twenty-three of the printed novel, I didn’t know the impact the character would have on me, until he, Michel, passes away from complications with HIV on a park bench near the Eiffel Tower. That’s on page sixty-four.

There were reasons for that to happen most of which I honestly don’t remember. But Michel’s death is still, to this day, one of my very favorite scenes to read in public, and I still, seven years later, cannot get through it without my voice cracking. Michel had entered my life and he was not about to leave.

Six years later, Michel asked me to tell his story

Early on in 2020, days before the pandemic hit, I had just completed a major IT project as a consultant and my “billable hours” were dropping to nil when, as happens sometimes, I heard a voice. It was Michel, and he was ready to tell me his story. Then the pandemic hit and my inspiration took a nosedive. It wasn’t until this fall that I was able to really work on the novel again in earnest. And Michel’s life, as short as it was, had plenty of interesting things to tell. Writing about a ‘dead’ character is difficult, and I’m reminded of writing Disease. How do you write a hopeful ending about a subject that inevitably leads to death? There is was Alzheimer’s, here it’s AIDS (and the fact that the character actually passed away in the fall of.1986.) I am very pleased with the outcome. I hope you will, too.

There is, of course, a tentative connection to Haakon and The Fallen Angels of Karnataka but you can read this story completely as a stand-alone, although you’ll miss the death scene, which is not included in Michel, as it’s based on his diaries and yeah, I’m sure you understand. Wouldn’t work. Although it might be a great commercial hook: read the first diary written by a dead person.

I’m editing, getting ready to market: the day job of authoring

A snippet of a possible cover for Michel

A snippet of a possible paperback cover for Michel.

The manuscript of Michel is currently in flux. The story is 99% written, I’d say, and I’ve already begun the editing process, i.e. the author editing. My publisher will edit the book later on with their fresh set of eyes, then set it, proof it, etc. We just discussed this morning, that it is my target to get the manuscript over to them by Christmas, and we tentatively talk about an April release. Before that, I’ll be in New Orleans for Sinners & Saints and hopefully, be able to let Michel meet his audience. We’ve also begun the process of creating a cover, which as I’m sure you know has always been crucial to me. That work included hiring a photographer to source licensed pictures of an angel I had found online. This angel and the expression on his face and his body language had spoken to me and I just knew I needed him on the cover. We’ll reveal the full cover later on, but here’s a sample of what it might look like. As I said, a work in progress. Things might yet change.

Authors are people stuck in a lonely cabin behind with only their cats and a typewriter

Many people think of authors as people in front of a typewriter, writing books all day long. Yes, that is part of what we do, but so is this, blogging, marketing, PR. To be an author is also to be an entrepreneur, owning a small/tiny business, being self-employed in this gig economy. Part of that aspect of our jobs is to secure funding, of course, from events, but also to market not only ourselves but our works, A lot of my colleagues believe this to be the publisher’s job, and yes, they do have their role to play, particularly as it means to get the product into stores, aka book stores and libraries, but they don’t really care about my author gigs in schools and libraries, at events. Because they don’t earn any money from those events. That’s just for the author. We have different roles, and as an author, marketing myself alongside my work is an important part of my job description as an author. Lest we forget.

Next steps: several more rounds of editing, filing on the finer details

Before I feel confident enough to release Michel to my publisher, there are still countless rounds of reading, editing, changing, and filing on the finer details of the story that remain. Because of its complicated conception with several chapters late in the book written early on, I need to make sure the timeline holds, and that different aspects of the story don’t clash. Who needs plot holes, right? That’s going to keep me busy for the coming weeks. It’s my goal to have the manuscript finalized by December 20th and send it to my publisher. We leave for our vacation the next day, and I don’t usually work on vacation unless it’s time-sensitive. After that commences the most difficult time for me, until I hear from the editor at Beaten Track, telling me what they think about the book.

Suffering from an extreme case of imposter syndrome, I always assume the worst, fully expecting them to turn me down before they never do (so far…) and I get the manuscript back and we work on it together until it is done and proofed. Meanwhile, I’ll contract the audio narrator, and work on a PR plan for the book, for what it’s worth. That usually includes blog appearances, Podcasts, and conventions. We’ll see what 2022 offers in that regard.

Are you interested in what’s going on? Stay tuned here. I’ll try to update this site regularly with any progress.