Met Neil White yesterday. Best-selling author of Fallen Idols, Lost Souls, Last Rites etc…
Peter Jones (of ACORN and other good works around Hyndburn) invited me to Lancashire Authors Awards Day in Lytham which, in spite of my current travails I was determined to attend.
The event was well organised with prize winners, performances as well as mayors and former mayors in attendance; including Guest Speaker Neil White. Neil, published by Donnier Zaffre, is a good guy with plenty of info for writers.
Neil was born in Yorkshire and moved to Preston, Lancashire when he was studying to be a criminal lawyer; met a local girl and married. He took us through his writing journey from his first interest to his first self-published work (300 copies sold out of 1,000 print run) through to his first publishing deal. Then we got a rundown of his creative process (the unmentioned word here is Discipline). Now here’s a fact: it took Neil 12 years to get from zero to a publisher deal.
Neil writes crime and mystery novels set in the North West. Place names are often changed but those who live in and around Burnley, Blackburn, Accrington, Great Harwood, Higham, and that great bustling metropolis just down the M66 (M61 if you’re Preston way) will recognise the places. I first met Neil at Burnley Central Library some years back when, as I recall, he was changing publisher. He’s now in the process of signing a new deal.
For those of a geographical disposition, here’s how Neil’s series stack up:
DC Laura McGanity (Avon – 5 vols) Blackley / Great Harwood
Joe & Sam Parker (Sphere – 3 vols) Manchester
Dan Grant (Bonnier Zaffre – 1 vol) Highford / Burnley-ish
Never having heard of Bonnier Zaffre (I’ve 150+ publishers in my back catalogue) I popped along to the Bonnier books team and saw with my own two eyes the traditional bevy of angst ridden executives doing what they can. I know these things – the East is in my blood (my line goes back through Estonia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and more).
Only joking folks (except about my line)
He took questions. I asked him about whether series were portable on changing publisher – he confirmed what I’d guessed – a publisher prefers to handle bespoke – its own series. Here he went into the creative side and how the Sphere series came to be centred on Manchester. I also asked about the input a publisher has on your diary – a publisher will want to fill your diary up with must-do events around book launch time.
Neil also does writer workshops. I think everyone there got something from his talk; I certainly did. He’s a busy guy so I’d like to say here how grateful I am that he took the time out to talk to us.
• Don’t give up.
• Discipline (are you serious? then inflict serious self-discipline; see it’s easy. :-))
• Be prepared to grow; a set back is a chance to learn.
• Getting a deal means a reality check – read between the lines and don’t bet on avoiding editors etc who turn your piece into how they would have written it,
• Expect to deal with fresh-from-university (young, photogenic) who can make your contract difficult on a whim.
Neil White – check him out
After the meeting ended I went for a wander through Lytham.
Its prosperity can be explained by major employers in the locality; in particular, government agencies and BAE Systems – I reflected on my recent failed to join BAE Systems; could I see myself living in Lytham? No. that didn’t prevent me eating fish and chips there; I treated myself, well protected in the shade. I happened to see brother-in-law, Les wandering through, looking for the Turkish restaurant so I invited him (plus partner Sandra) to a couple of chips, just to remind them what real food was like (okay the chips were pinched).
What I write: I’ve tried my hand at noir but mostly I stick to SF and Fantasy