My Dad sometimes plays dominoes with Trevor Hoyle.
As claims to fame goes, it’s a modest one, I admit. My mum and dad bought their first ever house from Mr Hoyle, celebrated dramatist and sci-fi author most famous for a killer episode of Blake’s 7 and a 1983 novel The Last Gasp. My dad still remembers seeing Hoyle’s office as he got a tour of the house he was soon to buy; a small upstairs room with every wall plastered with rejection letters.
I too have had my fair share of rejection letters – enough to wallpaper a small room of one’s own. Here’s one of my favourites from back in 2010 or so. I’d finished a book called Pollentracer. It was the first Dalton Fly novel, the one I abandoned immediately before beginning work on The Poison Boy. I’d set it in the city of Highlions, a border-town in a fantasy world in which spices and herbs had magical properties that made them dangerous and illegal. Dalton Fly was a spice detective – a pollentracer – with a nose for sniffing out stolen contraband and smuggled spice.
Because the world was complex, I hit upon the idea of giving Dalton an ignorant sidekick. I called this witless kid Dogpool Spares after a car mechanic’s place I’d seen in Birmingham. Dalton could teach him, I figured. It was my Holmes and Watson thing. I thought at the time Pollentracer bore all the hallmarks of a straight-fire winner.
AS the picture above clearly indicates, nobody else agreed. So why do I love this letter so much?
Well, it was evident these guys had actually read my book. That was a new one for me at the time. My rejection letters usually began “Dear Author” and got blander from there.
And look! There’s actual feedback. Clear, helpful feedback. It’s “laboured” – I plead guilty on that one – it’s “awkward” “complicated” – guilty again – Dalton “sounds too much like a teacher” – thrice guilty, m’lud. I had to ditch the idea. I knew as soon as the letter arrived. I binned the whole thing off and had a re-think. The Poison Boy was the result.
Every author has their fair share of defeats. So keep your rejection letters. It’s all good wallpaper, folks.
You know those type of guys and gals who get their cars ‘winter-ready’? Who clean under the wheel arches to make sure residues of salt aren’t corroding the blah blah blah or fill their screen-spray devices with royal blue glass-cleaning chemical blah to ensure the blah blah blah? They’re the same folk who regularly check the oil dipper or kick the tyres thoughtfully before long trips.
I’ve never kicked my tyres before a long trip. Each winter I run out of screenwash and spend my M60 commutes pulling into the slipstream of speeding cars whose drivers are assiduously misting their windscreens, so I can catch a cloud of drifting spray. If I catch a flat, I catch a flat.
No tyrekicker, me. I’ll start the engine, get going, and see how far the jalopy takes me. If it all goes pear-shaped – I run short of de-ionized something so that the radiator overheats and the spark plugs blah blah blah – well, I deal with it then. I’ve spent a few hours on the side of the motorway waiting for a guy who knows his blahs to rescue me in a big van as a result of this policy. But I’ve also had hours of happy motoring.
In January a start writing a book called ‘Let’s Be Mermaids’. Or maybe ‘Deep Jones’ or ‘Costa Formosa’. Whatever it ends up being called, I don’t plan on doing much tyrekicking, I’m just going to climb aboard and see where it takes me.
Here’s the deal. When I’m deep in despair – this’ll be June or July – remind me of this post, will you? And together we can laugh bitterly at the foolhardy blockhead that is the 2015 version of me.