Normally I’m delighted to host guest pieces by authors on Linda’s Book Bag. I say normally, but my dealings with Pete Adams show that he is not normal at all – in fact he’s quite crackers! Therefore it was with trepidation that I invited him to write a guest piece for the blog about writing a trilogy – you can see if my worries were justified below!
A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza was published by Urbane Publications on 1st June 2015 and is available to buy in both paperback and e-book here in the UK, here in the US and direct from Urbane who donate £1 from direct purchases to Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association, also known as Footprints.
About A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza
DCI Jack Austin – Jane to his friends and the not so friendly – knew he shouldn’t have come in to work. Following a terrorist bomb, an incident with a tutu and a hangover that would fell an elephant, investigating dead dogs, dodging bullets and being pulled sopping wet from a naval harbour is not conducive to a sunny disposition. But when the Head of Armed Forces and a City Banker are brutally murdered what’s a dashing DCI to do?
FORCE, a powerful Star Chamber, is under threat and Jack will need to go deep undercover to get to the bottom of the sinister plot. As revelations and rocket attacks threaten to turn his world upside down (and ruin his best pair of trousers), Jack will need courage, skill and a huge dose of lady luck if he is to bring the perpetrators of a nefarious plot that goes all the way to the Prime Minister’s office to justice.
As the trail leads to a showdown at the Albert Hall, Jack Austin, quintessential jumped up barrow boy and Portsmouth’s very own self-styled national icon, must fight to save his reputation, the country, and the lives of those who matter most. And work out just what a dead dog has to do with it all……
How to Write a Trilogy with Cherries and Porridge
a guest post from Pete Adams
author of A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza
How do you set about writing a trilogy? Although, in the case of Kind Hearts and Martinets by Pete Adams, the more appropriate question might be, ‘How do you set about writing a trilogy in five parts and then an epilogue, really?’ And the answer would be an emphatic, yes, it is a series of six books (all written) and Urbane Publications has just published book 3, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza, which is climbing steadily in the ratings, and the manuscript for book four, Ghost and Ragman Roll, is with Urbane now.
So Pete, an explanation, and please, cherries and porridge?
Lemon entry my dear Linda, what if life really was just a bowl of cherries, then a trilogy need not be numerically so confined, especially if readers demand more stories of a fat ugly cockney spiv, who loves Pride and Prejudice and Mary Poppins, and a beautiful woman who inexplicably loves him? They are both youthfully challenged, and there are doubts as to Jack’s sanitary; De Mensa? Do they retire into the sunset; not likely; a novel in a retirement home, perhaps? Oh what larks Pip.
Pete, please be serious for a moment, how did you set about writing a trilogy?
I never did, of course it helps if the early part of your writing career is a failure. For me, when book one, Cause and Effect became 180k words, it was time to take stock, but I couldn’t stop. I liked the characters and the narrative, so I started a second book, Irony in the Soul and the story continued, the characters developed and the same thing happened; I stopped and rolled into book three, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza, and drew a conclusion to an extended narrative.
So now I had three connected books that had a natural ending, et-voila, a trilogy. The luxury was that I could return to all three books and manipulate the narrative introducing hooks and teasers to be resolved late in book 3. I announced to the world that I, a debut author, had written a trilogy, huh? A damp squib reply.
The first Agent response was encouraging, too long but she liked the synopsis. I edited and cut, ruthlessly, and a second Agent (in amongst a flurry of rejections, circa a dozen), said it had real merit and suggested I send to a friend, John Anthony, a retired Publisher. The result was I tightened everything – his comments, especially after book two, were highly influential:
“Cause and Effect is highly impressive…as good an example of its type as I have read for some considerable time, and by focusing on male and female characters fairly equally, you have succeeded in creating a work that appeals to women just as much as men, and because of the edge-of-seat suspense, the vivid characterisation and the sheer innovation and originality of the narrative, I feel this work is one which would lend itself beautifully to a visual medium, film or TV.”
And Urbane is following this up…
Irony in the Soul – “I always read the second book in a trilogy or series with a degree of trepidation, particularly when I enjoyed the first book so much, but you allayed my fears on the very first page. Objectively, the book can be read as a standalone novel, and you have taken pains to ensure that there is nothing a new reader cannot pick up on, and the plot is one that, though linked to the previous book in the trilogy, is strong and coherent enough to speak for itself, much as the first book does.
And then his comment that led to the extended trilogy…
With the strong characters established, your only problem, as far as I can see, will be in feeding…readers…with more narrative material; once you ignite an appetite, it is not so easy to satiate!
The catalyst, the challenge, “…more narrative material” and Kind Hearts and Martinets is now established as a trilogy; dilemma.
I was energised to write more, but, I described the books as comedy and this is, apparently, a hard genre to get published, (Urbane said the books were crime thrillers that make you laugh; Eureka). I ineptly self published books one and two, with no clue on marketing, promotion, the importance of getting reviews, but I was out there and people liked my books. I had written book four, Ghost and Ragman Roll, and was well into book 5, Merde and Mandarins, when I signed with Urbane to Publish A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza, book three, and Urbane announced Kind Hearts and Martinets, the trilogy. Get out of that without moving, it was in print, so Kind Hearts eventually became a trilogy in 5 parts, I told the world, and as it takes a gazillion years to get a book published, upon publication, I had written book six, The Duchess of Friesian Tun, so, that became an Epilogue.
The important thing for me, was, I had time to manipulate the narrative so that events in subsequent novels could resolve conundrums inserted into earlier books; a ‘series’ of coherent books is therefore written, but, called forever “a trilogy”.
So, what is your recommendation Pete?
A trilogy or series will occur naturally, and if you are several books ahead of the Publisher, you can manipulate the narrative, and subliminal plot complexities can be enjoyed, revelled in, and resolved later.
Thanks Pete, is that it?
No, I’m just finishing book 8, and here is the relevant part, I realised that not only did this story need a new beginning, it also needed a whole new book before it, and I could do that because I was under no pressure…and then, dramatically, I realise whilst writing this, I have burned the porridge, producing an inedible cereal (not a trilogy); and there you have it, a trilogy in six parts, with cherries and porridge, and two to follow; are they connected? You will have to wait and see.
It’s tough at the coalface of writing then?
Who you calling coal face…?
Thanks Pete (sigh…).