For a long time I was jealous of my friend Thom Atkinson (read about him here). His short stories and plays, justly award-winning, hit a kernel of truth that I couldn’t seem to reach in my own writing (you really should read his work. He’s honestly that good). What I produced was readable, but it was all surface, it didn’t resonate deeply.
Maybe I hadn’t lived enough. Maybe I just hadn’t reached far enough inside. I don’t know.
I had a stack of unpublished novels, six or seven of them. Fair enough.
Finally, though, I did manage to touch that core and find that elusive truth when I wrote The Broken Token. I like to feel that the Richard Nottingham and Tom Harper books all manage that, to a greater or lesser degree. Some – At the Dying of the Year, for instance, or Gods of Gold and Skin Like Silver – have been very emotionally draining to write. When that happens, I feel fairly sure I’ve achieved work that’s the best I can do.
Some of my other books perhaps don’t delve quite as deep. But I hope that they each have their own truth that shines through.
This is a preface to saying I’ve just completed a book that was quite exhausting to write. Currently titled The Tin God, it’s the next in the Harper series, and Annabelle figures more largely than ever. Soon enough it will be with my agent and then, I hope, my publisher, who will give the thumbs up or down. If it’s success then I’ll let you know, of course. But the issues involved are timely. Women running for office – which they could in late Victorian Leeds, either for the School Board or as a Poor Law Guardian – and the problems they face from men.
My publisher will hopefully receive this new manuscript just after On Copper Street appears in hardback in the US, and everywhere as an ebook (obligatory ad!). I was a little stunned a couple of weeks ago when Booklist, an American publication, named it as one of the best crime novels of the last 12 months before its publication. That is heart-stopping and left me immensely proud.
Over lunch last week, a writer friend told me: ‘You own Leeds.’
I don’t (or if I do, where’s the rent?), but it’s lovely to be so associated with a city I care for so deeply, that’s helped me find the heart in my fiction.
I’ll be talking about that on June 8 with a great historical crime writer, Candace Robb, who feels about York the way I do about Leeds. Details are here – please come if you can.
A finally, I mentioned Richard Nottingham before. After four years away, he’s returning. Here’s a little teaser…