Those of you who follow WitterLog will be aware that there have been some changes to the blog recently. A static front page has appeared. The name “Mark Winter” has become associated with it. This “Mark Winter” chappie has started wittering on about a book called Infernal Prey (due for publication late in 2013, apparently, though it is now February 2014). What’s all this about then?
I have been an unpublished hobby writer since my early teens, or or for roughly thirty years if you must know. Until I acquired a Apple Macintosh in the late 1980’s, this meant reams and reams of handwritten foolscap pages. My handwriting was actually legible in those days. I wrote in imitation of the authors I loved: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, James Herbert, Stephen Donaldson, H.P. Lovecraft and the gruesome tales found in horror comics like Vampirella. I churned out highly derivative short stories and scrappy novellas, but I found myself spending quite a bit of time doing what today is pretentiously known as “world building”. The numerous volumes of background material published to illuminate the worlds of J.R.R Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Julian May and others inspired me to invest a lot of creative time and effort in writing that could never conceivably be published unless I one day achieved bestseller status with some proper novels. But I enjoyed it.
It was when I left university and entered the world of work that I began writing a novel called Shadowblood. Stylistically it was a bit of a mash-up: set in the late 19th Century in the remote, isolated depths of central Europe; structured like a thriller; peppered with rather graphic scenes of violent horror and abnormal sexuality; populated by my own take on familiar monsters like vampires and werewolves; drenched in supernatural imagery; written in conscious, clumsy emulation of one or two of my favourite authors (whom I decline to name, for their sake). It took me three years to write the first draft (hey, I had a life!); double-spaced, it worked out to around 350 pages or 100,000 words. No epic door-stopper like many of the books I loved, but not too slim either.
It went into a drawer.
It was my first finished novel, so many would say the drawer is exactly the right place for it. But two or three years later I found myself dusting it off and tinkering with it. I couldn’t help it: clumsy and juvenile though the work was, I was fond of it. There was something in the characters, the story arc and the concepts behind the setting that I couldn’t let go of. There was something there and the urge was on me to polish it.
Ten years and two more complete drafts went by. Yes, other novel ideas came to me and I wrote some detailed outlines. A couple of short stories found their way from my brain into a computer. A lot of work was put into my growing background notes; too much work, you might say, given the relatively slim manuscript that they were supporting, but then again several of the other outlines I’d written were direct sequels to Shadowblood, and all of my novel ideas were to a large degree consistent with the fictional world that was slowly taking shape (even if superficially they seemed unconnected). Of course, I had a day job. I had a girlfriend who later became my wife. I had a little boy. And my writing found another channel when I enrolled on a master’s degree course part-time (I completed my MA in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine and continue to have a strong interest in those subjects: see WitterLog’s sister blog BlatherLog).
Shadowblood went into a drawer again (albeit a virtual one this time).
Well, life got in the way. It does that, as I’m sure everyone will agree. Writing discipline is hard to master and it doesn’t come easily to me. But at the end of February 2013 I suddenly found myself with a lot more time on my hands when I was made redundant from my job. Out of work and staring at a laptop screen, the “desk drawer” file crept open with a spine-tingling creak, seemingly of its own accord, and Shadowblood opened up on my screen.
To be continued.