I’m walking around the Northwood demesne in Santry, Dublin. It’s lunchtime and everyone in the area is making the best of the mid-September warmth. Strollers, joggers or office workers escaping the cubicle and the ceaseless din of the desk telephone and the insidious ping of emails grab the sunlight and breathe the air.
I have my head down muttering. In my hand, a sequence of handwritten prompt cards, creased and dappled in orange and green highlighter. I have a three-minute pitch to prepare. A three-minute pitch at the Bloody Scotland ‘Pitch Perfect’ event in the city of Stirling, an hour’s drive from Glasgow. It’s Bloody Scotland’s eighth year and is now the second largest book event after the Edinburgh Book Festival in Scotland.
My son, Liam quips, ‘It’ll be like Dragon’s Den.’
No pressure so.
On Sunday September 22nd 2019, myself and seven other writers who submitted their works and selected from a pool of seventy submissions have the opportunity to pitch with the chance to pick up a publishing deal. A panel of four of the publishing industries leading lights will sit in judgement. The flights are booked, timetables for the bus service downloaded and all I’m bringing are these battered, dog-eared prompt cards.
I walk to the faux-folly along a small dusty path in the demesne. I stand inside it, working the pitch off my fingers; Genre / Protagonist / Their goal – objective / The obstacles they face achieving this goal and finally Why should the reader care about this story?
The Road of a Thousand Tigers is my novel. The one I am pitching that Sunday. It began as a ‘filler’ while I waited for edits from a new editor, I have the pleasure of working with; Derek Suffing. He’s working through the last book of my Eva Molenaar series, Eagles Hunt Wolves. It’s still very much a work in progress. With both of us working full-time, our process is planned around the day-to-day responsibilities of families and jobs. It is a slow process. So, with the downtime, I looked at a few jettisoned passages from EHW, a few shavings on the floor, so to speak, and I began using this as what baker’s call their ‘starter’ for The Road of a Thousand Tigers.
It began life as ‘Ghost of a chance’, a submission to the Ian Fleming Society as part of their expansion of the 007 universe. It was rejected but also, they gave me a list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’s’ about the Bond Franchise (it was mostly don’ts). It’s a checklist in copyright protection. So, stripping away M, Moneypenny, Q and all references to the ‘Double-Oh’ world, I went back to the drawing board. I immersed myself in several ‘Bond’ type books of the 1950’s. Lionel Davidson, Alastair Maclean, Harold Pinter, Grahame Greene and John le Carre formed the world this new agent would inhabit. I kept the character’s name; Sebastian Holt.
I kept the dialogue, lean, sparse almost, the denouement takes place in Tel Aviv at a chess tournament, I got a travelogue out of the library on Tel Aviv and contacted a fellow author from Israel, Ellis Shuman, who tidied up the historical details to give the final pages that all too necessary authenticity.
I put The Road of a Thousand Tigers up on Kobo.com first. I use the platform mostly as it has worked out best for me. I took control of all my own work in 2016 and began the process of re-working, re-editing and reloading the series, Get Lenin, Zinnman, A Finger of Night and Hollow Point; back up digitally and then on Amazon’s paperback generator.
I learned the process and during 2017 wrote a Steampunk Novel The Mandarin Cipher; living proof that there’s one book of yours you love with your heart and soul only to see it languish in binary limbo for years, going nowhere.
The Road of a Thousand Tigers hardly set the world on fire and once I loaded it up onto Amazon, and sent a few links via Twitter, it began to move units – but slowly. I submitted it to Kobo’s home placement page, which was accepted and during the month of June 2019, The Road of a Thousand Tigers went to number 1 on Kobo downloads in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Bang in the middle of the summer season and I couldn’t believe it.
I was invited onto Q102 Dublin radio on the morning slot, chatting to Liam Coburn to promote the book and give a brief overview of my own writing journey; I wake up at 5am every morning and write between 5.15am through to 7.30am, seven days a week. You usually have the bones of a novel within 2-3 months. Some people get up at that time and run – or hit the gym, I hit the A4 pad and the laptop. Once I have the first draft completed, I stow it away for three months and begin the rewrites.
But in this instance, I didn’t stow The Road of a Thousand Tigers away, there was a rolling feel to the edits, like a short film, it was edited and rewritten up same day and built in a series of frames that followed the plot.
Then I received an email out of the blue at the end of August from Bob McDevitt indicating that The Road of a Thousand Tigers had been accepted for Bloody Scotland. I had been fortunate to read at Murder One last year and I used that as part of my pitch.
And now I’m standing in Santry demesne, on the raised plinth of the folly working the lines, working the pitch getting ready to board the plane to Bloody Scotland.
And the first faltering steps into the wider publishing world.
(c) Robert Craven
About The Road of a Thousand Tigers:
Set in the era of Bond and for fans of Lee Child, meet Sebastian Holt.Holt is a troubled man. Adrift after a mission in Egypt that didn’t go according to plan he’s returned to London. Enter Case Officer Petrie with an offer: travel to France and locate a missing CIA asset named ‘Cochise’. Sounds easy? Holt agrees and flies into Paris only to collide with a beautiful French journalist who isn’t all she seems to be and the KGB hunting ‘Cochise’ down. From London, Paris to Tel Aviv, Holt finds himself running out of options and out of time on the road of a thousand tigers.
Order your copy online here.