As I’m writing this, 2020 is coming to a close. ‘Thank goodness,’ I hear you cry! (Enter in your own expletive as appropriate). You should be reading this at the beginning of 2021 and hopefully the future will be looking a little brighter. Please just bear with me for a few minutes while I reflect on my own writing journey during the year that forever will be associated with ‘The Pandemic.’
Many writers I have spoken to have talked about how it was hard to concentrate on writing as Covid 19 began its strangle hold on the world. I definitely found that myself at the start. I had the concept for a new novel, but I couldn’t get down to starting it. Gradually I found I could write for small periods and actually managed to produce three or four short stories. Pleasingly a few of these have since been sold to anthologies. After a time as it all became ‘the new normal,’ I found writing a wonderful escape again. The problem with being able to concentrate was superseded by the actual need to write. Writing isn’t my main source of income, so I do not have that particular pressure. It is actually what I go to primarily for escapism and for an enjoyable creative output. It’s nice when it becomes part of your daily routine and a part that you look forward to. I have just finished the second draft of a new novel this week and I’ll leave that alone for a while now. It might be expected to have a feeling of accomplishment and even relief after finishing. What I’m actually left with is a flatness and the anxiety about whether it will be well received or not. The angst of the writer! It’s strange- I know. I’ll imagine that feel a little directionless until I get started on the next one. It is an odd thing, this thing that we do for sure!
But anyway, back to the finished books. I had the unusual experience of releasing two novels in 2020. The Mark came out during the first lock-down and Witness came out a few weeks ago, during the second lock-down. That would not be the norm- any part of it! Of course there haven’t been any physical events this year, but it’s been nice to still link up with both writers and reader via the wonders of the internet- even if we are all beginning to all despair a little with video calls. Go on admit it.
So, Witness then. I’m pleased with the finished novel and it’s been lovely to have had such a warm response. Fortunately, New Pulp Press were interested in the book and it has been published by them. It was exciting to be with a press with so many brilliant writers and run by the former head of Marvel too! I’ve always done my best to avoid ‘The Troubles’ as much as possible, but it is always that big fat, noisy, unwanted elephant in the room. In this novel I tried to create a thriller around characters who have been impacted in all kinds of specific ways by our shared past. I would describe it as very much a ‘post-Troubles’ book and the spectre that has been left behind. The novel also offered me the opportunity to flag up some big questions, about religious beliefs and the individual’s personal responses and decisions. I wanted to throw all kinds of things at the main character and see how he would respond. In particular I was interested in seeing how bad could someone’s actions become while they still attempted to ‘do the right thing.’ I think my past studying of philosophy at University also impacted quite substantially on this book. I’ve always been interested in the morality of deontology versus utilitarianism. Basically, is it best to do what you think is intrinsically right for each thing you do. Or, is it better to weigh up the likely consequences for the greatest happiness of the greatest number? I tried to introduce some hard choices where the reader will be challenged as much as my protagonist.
Okay, I think I’ve gotten heavy enough for now, I blame 2020! So, all that is left for me to say is a very Happy New Year to you all! I hope you’ve all made some positive resolutions for this year, including plenty of reading and writing. Take care.
(c) Simon Maltman
God created the world in one week. In six days Pastor Tom destroyed his own. On the seventh day he rested. Post-Troubles Belfast. One flawed pastor believes he can still make a difference. Hardened, ageing paramilitaries make a last grab for power. Murder, kidnapping, corruption. Pastor Tom strives to make a positive difference in his community, but secrets from his past still haunt him. One bad decision follows another as he tries to do “the right thing.” Will he soon be shackled to a path leading him far from redemption?
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