Book Two: the Terror Returns – First to Die by Alex Caan

Alex Caan © 14 June 2018.
Posted in the Magazine ( · Crime · Interviews ).

OK I know this is a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM completely. Still, the pain of writing my second novel has been immense. I remember attending Harrogate in the summer of 2016, my first as a published author, where I spent the days meeting my favourite writers-these guys are my rockstars and I was in total groupie mode. Tess Gerritsen – I mean, come on, she’s a legend and I got to meet her. One of the writers I met was Val McDermid, who I asked for some advice for a new writer. She told me to finish my second novel before the first one was published. I must have looked at her in horror, because it was too late for me. Book two was just an imaginary thing and book one had seen the light of day.

First To Die isn’t my actual second novel, it took me a lot of false starts to get to my first crime thriller, Cut To The Bone. I’ve written many novels in the past, most unpublished. The art of writing is my passion, I love doing it, I enjoy doing it. I wake up and I’m in my head with my characters. I go to sleep and they invade my dreams and all day I am busy like a magpie gathering bits of information to feed into my future and current works. So I’ve written all my life, full of the dream and the desire that I want to write and I want people to feel what I do when I read a good book. And I’ve written novels and stories through this enthusiasm many times over the years. Always when nobody was paying me to write, or interested in what I was writing, just me and my creative processes, burning the dream. And then…somebody gave me a contract, an advance, and wants to publish this second novel and…and then what?

In some extreme reverse psychology, when somebody wanted this book the words died. The words that had come so easily for so long, just weren’t there. I had been frozen with terror ever since I started to realise I would have to deliver BOOK TWO!! I had an outline, a title, I was bringing back DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris, it’s like driving down a new road in a car you love. And yet, I just couldn’t do it. I had so many false starts, despite the encouragement of so many people, including one of my writing heroes, Angela Marsons. I had other writers ask me for weekly word counts, took advice from anyone who has ever written, and most of all the encouragement of the beautiful, amazing, generous people who have been so kind about Cut To The Bone and wanted more!! And still…the words didn’t come.

I spent ages re-watching YouTube videos, taking inspiration from my favourite writers, their processes and their journeys. Hoping something would spark and take hold and drive me on. It wasn’t even writer’s block I was suffering from. I knew what was happening next, my scenes all planed out, my dialogue all sorted. I just physically couldn’t write anymore. And on top of this crippling fear, I was faced with the glare of Amazon and Goodreads reader feedback. Every positive review or negative review just added another brick to the wall that stood between me and BOOK TWO. The negative voices made me think I was an imposter and couldn’t write even if someone paid me (which ironically they were…) and every positive review just built me up to believe that I couldn’t do it again and wasn’t going to be able to write again.

But then, one day, I decided to do it. Slowly I started to write, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter and even though each sentence was filled with self-loathing and fear, something began to take shape. And then finally I had something tangible. I hope the stress of that time doesn’t impact heavily on the book, and that it isn’t a load of angst, but rather a thrilling read, full of twists and turns and exciting characters. And I hope the pain of writing it has been worth it for me and the readers. And after all of that, what I can say to other people in the same place, is that I did it, so can you and what am I left with? I’m left with the brilliant feeling that I just can’t wait to write my next novel! Go figure.

(c) Alex Caan

About First to Die:

Bonfire Night and St James’s Park is filled with thousands of Anonymous protesters in a stand-off with the police. When a cloaked, Guido Fawkes mask-wearing body is discovered the following morning, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s office are called in.
The corpse has been eaten away by a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus. The autopsy reveals the victim was a senior civil servant, whose work in international development involved saving lives. Why would anyone want him dead?
As the research team looking into the origins of the deadly virus scramble to discover an antidote, first one, then another pharmacist goes missing. Meanwhile, a dark truth starts to emerge about the murder victim: he was an aggressive man, whose bullying behaviour resulted in the suicide attempt of one of his former staff members.
With thirty lives potentially at stake, Kate and Zain have their work cut out for them. Can they find the two missing pharmacists in time, or will they too end up dead?

Order your copy online here.

Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in Information Systems Security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English Teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing, and write Cut to the Bone. Cut to the Bone has been a Kindle Number 1 bestseller, was picked as a WH Smith 'Everyone's Talking About' book of the week, chosen as Sainsbury's best of summer reads and was Angela Marson's pick for crime novel recommendation of the year. Alex Caan was also a rising star on Amazon in 2016. Follow Alex on Twitter @alexcaanwriter