I don’t write this blog often enough. Most of the time, when I sit down to write it, I think to myself – you could be doing your book – and I end up writing that instead. It is not in my nature to tell people I don’t know about myself, and to need them to know what I’m doing. The way I interface with the world is mostly through the books and I imagine it will stay that way.
But I wanted to write now and thank those of you who have written in to say you enjoyed, or are still enjoying since it only just came out, the new Inspector Pekkala book. Even though the book was only published a week or so ago, I have had more messages from more kind people than I received altogether for the first book in the series.
I know it is a horrible cliché to say that something warms the heart, but it literally does to read such thoughtful and enthusiastic messages. There are a lot of days when things aren’t going smoothly with the writing – too many interruptions or a piece of the plot which I have to take apart and put back together, as brutal an operation as breaking a bone which has set incorrectly – and I start to lose faith in what I am doing. This is not one of those jobs in which you get regular and consistent feedback, as you might in a sports game for example. With the writing, weeks and months go by when you are so far down in the mines that you can’t even remember the way out, let alone keep track of what you are ultimately trying to create.
The publications of the books, both the Eastland series and those I have written under my own name (Paul Watkins) used to be a huge event for me. It was inevitably disorienting, whether things went well or not. Good news is as diverting as bad news when what you really need to be doing is sitting at your desk and writing. I had to work very hard not to be run off the rails by publicity work, reviews and the pressure to keep up momentum.
A strange thing happened to me a couple of years ago which, although it was a little traumatic at the time, actually helped me to gain some distance. I used to read all the reviews, good or bad, and did my best not only to be grateful to those people who had taken the time to write them no matter what they said, but also, if possible, to learn from them with an eye towards writing in the future. Then I started to notice that I was getting identical reviews on various websites – and by identical, I mean word for word the same – but apparently written by different people. The other strange thing about these reviews, all of which were horrible by the way, was that they appeared to be generic. They could have applied to any book at all. I knew something was fishy but wasn’t sure there was anything I could do about it. Then I received word that I had even targeted by another author, named RJ Ellory, who also wrote crime fiction. Apparently, he had created a number of accounts on Amazon and was using these accounts, all of them listed under different names, to undermine the work of people he believed to be the competition. He was also writing rave reviews for himself under these same names, which I thought was just funny. He got caught eventually, and his various fake accounts were made known, which is how I found out about it. I hadn’t lost any sleep over it – if you are kind-hearted enough about humanity to think that there aren’t people out there who will do everything they can to wreck you, particularly if they can hide behind a mask while they are doing it, just because they can – they this is the wrong line of work to be in. But I thought it was so sad and desperate and so cheapening of his own talent that RJ Ellory had taken it upon himself to do this, that I quite reading reviews altogether.
But I do read the messages that people send to me through the Inspector Pekkala website, and I am pretty good about writing back to everyone, although sometimes it takes me a couple of weeks. I very much appreciate those of you who have take the time to write, particularly over the past couple of weeks. I’m glad you are enjoying the new book – The Beast in the Red Forest.
It was a real pleasure creating a nemesis for Pekkala. The challenge was to avoid making someone who was simply his opposite. You have to give them a reason for being who they are, no matter how twisted that is. And the thing about people who are twisted is that what makes sense to them isn’t necessarily going to make sense to the rest of us. The logic by which they pursue their goals, and the goals themselves, necessitates a departure from what normal people would consider reality. What are you going to do if you go after someone for a crime you think they committed and then you find out that the person you were hunting is innocent? A normal person would simply admit they were wrong and call a halt to their private crusade. But what if the need for vengeance has become so much a part of who you are that it is the only thing that makes sense to you anymore? What kind of lies do we tell ourselves in order to justify the things we do, even when we know they are lies? These were the kind of questions I had to answer as I was piecing together the Frankenstein monster that Pekkala must face in this book.
I am just finishing up the next book in the series. My desk is strewn with post-it notes and red-lined manuscript. It will be out this time next year, and I hope you will enjoy that one as well.
But I promise to write more of this blog before then.